Henrico County Public Schools are poised to go totally tobacco free, its leaders just want a little more time to make a decision.
The school division is aiming to become the third district in central Virginia to ban all tobacco for students and staff, joining Hanover County and Petersburg City Public Schools.
The new policy, reviewed Thursday for the first time, would ban all tobacco use at school and at school-sponsored events instead of allowing teachers and staff to smoke in certain designated areas.
"We think that health education is very important for students and we believe that being a tobacco free environment is a part of that," said Dr. Patrick Kinlaw of HCPS.
School board members were surprised to learn during Thursday's meeting that some schools already ban tobacco for students and staff. Ronald Rodriguez, the principal at Henrico High School, believes an expansion would not be a problem county-wide.
"I don't believe so, because throughout society we're seeing more institutions that are going to a smokeless policy," Rodriguez said.
30% of teachers indicated in a school survey that they would oppose the change.
"I think it would be a shock to the system if you will," said Jennifer Andrews, a Henrico teacher, and leader within the Virginia Education Association.
The VEA has not taken a side on the tobacco ban, Andrews said, while it waits for answers to a few key questions.
"How much can you dictate to your employees about what their personal behavior is?" Andrews asked rhetorically.
The school board will continue to survey teachers and staff about the proposed change with a goal of discussing the total tobacco ban again in about a month.
One member of the school board suggested that, if approved, the total tobacco ban would not go into effect for at least another year.
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