Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Health committee calls for tobacco-free Pasco schools

When workers at any Pasco County school that opened before July 1996 crave a tobacco fix, all they need to do is step outside to a designated area and puff away.

The district's Health Advisory Committee wants to end that practice.

The group, composed primarily of community health care professionals, has unanimously called on the School Board to change its policy allowing older schools to avoid the tobacco-free designation that newer campuses operate under.

"In order to send messages to our youth that are consistent with current tobacco prevention curriculum, maintaining positive adult role models for students is critical," the committee wrote. "Additionally, students should not be exposed to secondhand smoke at any level."

It's not a new message. The board held a workshop on the concept in August 2011, and heard from some passionate Students Working Against Tobacco members this past June.

"We want 100 percent tobacco-free schools," student Andrew Gonzalez told the board. "If teachers still want to smoke they should go off campus, or schools should help them to quit."

The district's employee contracts stand in the way, though.

According to the agreements, a pre-1996 school can go tobacco-free only with the unanimous vote of the employees there. The district has no record of any requested votes in the 17 years since the rule took effect.

"One teacher can prevent the wishes of all the other teachers from being realized," said board chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong, who sits on the advisory committee. "That is something that is going to have to be negotiated."

District and United School Employees of Pasco officials met Monday to talk about amending the contract.

"We are looking at having discussions now rather than waiting for contract negotiations to reopen in the summer," employee relations director Betsy Kuhn said.

USEP leaders did not return calls seeking comment.

Kuhn suggested that the chance to update the practice appeared good, given the changes in attitudes toward smoking since 1996. Several districts have moved to eliminate employee tobacco use on campuses. Some, including Pasco, have even tried to stop hiring tobacco users.

Pasco dropped that concept after finding it unworkable in its food and nutrition department.

Kuhn noted that Pasco's advisory committee gave plenty of reasons to consider a new direction for tobacco-free workplaces.

"They're not just work sites," she said. "They're schools."

Not all School Board members are as enthusiastic as Armstrong.

"I'd rather see an incentive approach for our employees," vice chairwoman Alison Crumbley said. "Then your outcome is they might quit smoking, which is what we want."

Board member Steve Luikart, a former assistant principal, said he would be hesitant to have the district enter this debate.

"I know it's a health issue. I understand the reasoning behind it," Luikart said. "But where does it stop? … Are we going to check lunch boxes? Are we going to have them weigh in every morning? … I'm not one who wants to dictate what adults do."

The health advisory committee does not weigh in often. Its most recent high-profile effort led to the placement of defibrillators in district buildings.

This time, the group is asking that the contract be changed so only a majority of a school's employees must support having their buildings go tobacco free.

Armstrong said she believed the time was right.

"The push is out there to set a better example for our students, to make our employees more healthy," she said. "We need to pursue it."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at jsolochek@tampabay.com, or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

Health committee calls for tobacco-free Pasco schools 10/29/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 7:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Police: 8 found dead in truck, 20 dire in immigrant smuggling case

    Nation

    SAN ANTONIO — Authorities called to a Walmart parking lot in San Antonio overnight found eight people dead and 20 others in dire condition in the back of a sweltering tractor-trailer, in what police are calling a horrific case of immigrant smuggling.

    San Antonio police officers investigate the scene Sunday, July 23, 2017, where eight people were found dead in a tractor-trailer loaded with at least 30 others outside a Walmart store in stifling summer heat in what police are calling a horrific human trafficking case, in San Antonio. [Associated Press]
  2. Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics

    Blogs

     Winner of the week

    Peter Antonacci. Gov. Rick Scott tapped his go-to utility player to lead his Florida job recruiting agency, Enterprise Florida, having previously picked him for his general counsel, to lead the South Florida Water Management District and to serve as Palm Beach state …

  3. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 19: A peregrina spends the whole day under the weather, and part of the day under the table

    Travel

    Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Puente Villarente: 25.4 km, 7.5 hours (Total for Days 1-19 = 454 km (282 miles)

    This list pretty much sums up my day:

    Eat two bananas

    Walk 13.1 kilometers

    Nap

    Walk 6.2 kilometers

    Nap

    Eat half an apple

    Walk 6.1 kilometers

    Crash< …

  4. Storm routs Cleveland

    Storm

    TAMPA — Alvin Ray Jackson intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown, and recovered two fumbles as the Storm routed Cleveland 57-27 Saturday night in its home regular-season finale at Amalie Arena.

  5. Miscue sends Rays to another stinging loss to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays gave away DJ Kitty onesies Saturday night. Then they gave away the game.

    Rays centerfielder Mallex Smith misses a drive hit by Adrian Beltre with two outs in the sixth, allowing the tying runs to score. Beltre puts Texas ahead 4-3 when he scores after two wild pitches.