By DENISE DICK AND CHRISTINE KEELING
For years, Mahoning Valley school districts have restricted smoking on school grounds, but now the state wants anti-smoking policies to become even stricter.
Last month, the state school board recommended that smoking be banned on all surrounding school property. Smoking inside school buildings is already prohibited by state law.
The latest recommendation from the state board means students wouldn’t be able to possess tobacco products, and school employees and other adults couldn’t use any such products.
Lock P. Beachum Sr., president of the Youngstown school board, has asked the board’s policy committee, chaired by board member Andrea Mahone, to study such a policy for the city schools.
“A lot of schools are doing this all around the country,” Beachum said.
The state’s recommendation isn’t mandated.
The Youngstown district’s policy adopted in 2004 prohibits tobacco use within enclosed facilities owned or leased by the board and in areas immediately adjacent to locations of entrances to such facilities. It also prohibits tobacco use in vehicles owned or operated by the board.
It does, however, allow the board to designate outdoor areas where smoking is allowed.
The policy being considered though, would eliminate those designated areas.
Austintown Superintendent Vince Colaluca said his school board voted to make its campus tobacco free as of June 1.
Although Colaluca said the decision was “a great thing for kids,” he said it also helped the district earn a silver green building certificate through the U.S. Green Building Council.
The district is in the process of building new kindergarten-through-second and third-through-fifth-grade buildings.
Boardman Superintendent Frank Lazzeri said his district’s smoking policy has been in place since 2008. It prohibits smoking in buildings, at football games and district-owned trucks.
Lazzeri said faculty can go to the parking lot and smoke in their cars.
Robert Zorn, Poland’s superintendent, said the district hasn’t “had any problems” since implementing a smoke and tobacco-free campus two years ago.
“The public is pretty sensitive,” he said.
In Canfield, Superintendent Dante Zambrini said he understands the health concerns but thinks the new recommendation is too restrictive.
“Who’s going to police it?” asked Zambrini. “You can’t even go smoke in a car because it’s on the premises.”
He said the district’s policy prohibits smoking inside the fence at football games, in buildings and in close proximity to doors.
“Residents and parents, through their own choice, choose to smoke,” Zambrini said.
No discussions have taken place to make any changes to the district’s smoking policy.
At Liberty schools, members of the public who attend a football game can go outside of the stadium to smoke, said Superintendent Stanley Watson.
“During the school day, there’s no place you can smoke on campus,” he said.
He has some concerns about the state board’s recommendation to eliminate tobacco completely.
“The biggest hurdle is the public aspect of it,” Watson said. “If you have 5,000 people at a football game, who’s going to police that?”
Such prohibitions for students and staff during the school day are easy.
“It’s covered ground,” he said. “We haven’t had issues with that for a long time.”
Aaron Schwab, communications coordinator for the Warren City Schools, said that district’s policy already includes the state-recommended restrictions.
“We are already completely smoke free,” he said. “There’s no smoking on any of our properties.”
That even prohibits someone smoking inside his or her vehicle that’s parking on school property, Schwab said.