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Vaping a ‘hot topic’ for Lincoln County School District

The Lincoln County School Board of Trustees considered options Monday for improving education and enforcement of rules against vaping.

“If there’s anything I try to do district wide, it’s going to be research-based,” Superintendent Mickey Myers said in the meeting. “Vaping is a very serious issue in Lincoln County, and all districts, I’m sure.”

Myers noted that in 1998, more than 30 percent of students used cigarettes. That number dropped to 6.9 percent in 2018, but in 2019, more than 27 percent of students had used electronic cigarettes in the last 30 days. According to Myers, the key to reducing cigarette usage had been education, and he believes it may be true for vaping devices as well, along with increasing punitive measures.

“Some cities and counties in the state of Mississippi has put ordinances in place that put pretty substantial penalties that would really effect the child and the parent, involving fines and community service and completing a vape education course before the student would be released from the punishment associated with that.”

The district has also been evaluating sensors to detect when e-cigarettes are used in school restrooms. Myers said he’s received feedback from other districts that, along with being expensive, the sensors are only effective for “lone wolf” vaping activity.

“(If) you see them on camera, they walk in there and they’re the only one who walked in there for the last seven minutes and (the sensor alerts) you that vape was used there, it’s pretty understandable that you know who it was,” Myers said. “You have reasonable suspicion to search that child.”

During breaks and other times where multiple people may be using a restroom at any given time, Myers said using the sensors as justification to search a child becomes a liability issue for a district.

“It’s not an effective way to deal with it,” Myers said. “We’ve got to look at educating our students.”

Board President Justin Laird noted at the meeting that children are often influenced to use vaping devices and other drugs as early as junior high or even earlier, and suggested that education begin in sixth grade.

“That’s another thing,” Myers agreed. “Who do you target?”

Board Vice President Tim Cunningham cautioned against knee-jerk responses.

“I know we’ve sent a text message out through one school,” he said. “My only suggestion is we do it district-wide. It needs to be put together well across all the schools in the district.”

ED 3 Trustee Billy Vaughn suggested holding assemblies sooner rather than later.

“We’ve had two incidences since last Christmas,” he said. “They were serious incidences. What if we would have had some kind of assembly prior to them doing it? Would that have deterred them from doing that? Probably not, but still.”

The board did not vote to change any policies regarding vaping devices in Monday’s meeting. Myers noted that he planned to have a conference with Brookhaven Police Chief Kenneth Collins and Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing to discuss the issue.

“This is going to be a hot topic for the foreseeable future,” he said. “We’re going to have to tweak and change and educate.”

Personnel

• Family medical leave was approved for two teachers.

• The resignation of Bogue Chitto janitor Annette May was approved.

• The employment of Donald Tobias — a class B custodian — to replace Roger Terrell was approved for Bogue Chitto.

• Leonard McDonald was approved to assist the Bogue Chitto Band as a paraprofessional.

• The resignation of West Lincoln nurse Janet Bullock Berry was approved.

• Tambria Brothern was removed as a part-time custodian and added to West Lincoln’s janitorial substitute list.

• Linda Dorsey was added to West Lincoln’s janitorial substitute list.

Training and other expenses

• Dr. Jeanne Ebey was approved to travel to Vicksburg from March 3-5 to attend a Special Education Directors’ Meeting/Joint Fiscal Conference.

• After consideration in executive session, Jeremy Berry was approved to travel to Washington, DC from March 7-11 to attend the Legislative Action Conference.

• Shirley Price and Jeremy Berry were approved to travel to Hattiesburg from April 1-3 to attend the Mississippi School Nutritional Association’s Steering Committee Meeting.

• The West Lincoln Senior Beta Club was given permission to travel to Gulf Shores, Alabama, for an educational trip from March 19-20.

• FTC Robotics Team 6704 was approved to travel to Oxford for a state competition Feb. 28-29.

• West Lincoln’s third grade class was approved to travel to Hammond, Louisiana, for the yearly field trip to Safari Park Feb. 21.

• Financial Director Sam Stewart was given permission to write a manual check to the Mississippi School Board Association’s Workers’ Compensation Trust in the amount of $8,420 for an additional premium amount.

Executive session and superintendent search

Following an executive session, the board voted to uphold the hearing officer’s decision on four student matters.

The board also went into two separate executive sessions to discuss the particulars of the search for a new superintendent, including determining a schedule for doing interviews, according to Myers. Those details will be finalized during a special board meeting called on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

The next regular board meeting is scheduled for March 16 at 5:30 p.m.