Utah State Board of Education looks to adapt policies on student searches, possession of e-cigarettes

ST. GEORGE — The Utah State Board of Education is looking to update its student searches policy and create a new rule regarding the use and possession of electronic cigarettes in schools.

During meetings Nov. 7-8, the board presented an updated draft of policy R277-615 regarding searching students and e-cigarettes.

The updated policy provides a more specific definition of an e-cigarette, which is defined as an “electronic device used to deliver or capable of delivering vapor containing nicotine or another substance to an individual’s respiratory system.” The component, accessories and products — including liquid containing nicotine — are also listed as prohibited items in the policy’s draft.

While working to update a previously established policy, the board has also drafted a completely new one. Policy R277-624 outlines the procedures for the confiscation of electronic cigarette products and requires school personnel to dispose of or destroy confiscated products.

The policy also states that school officials with reason to believe a confiscated product contains an illegal substance — such as THC — may provide the e-cigarette products to local law enforcement for storage, testing and disposal.

Over the past year, there has been a 4 percentage point increase in the number of high school students who reported to have vaped nicotine. In a study published in September, about 25% of high school seniors reported they vaped nicotine in the previous month, which rested at about 21% the year before.

Vaping stock image | Photo by licsiren/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Although Washington and Iron County school districts do not have stand-alone e-cigarette policies, the WCSD included these devices and their products in their tobacco policy. According to policy 1401, students, staff and visitors are prohibited from using tobacco products or electronic cigarettes in buildings or facilities leased or owned by the district, in private vehicles on district property, athletic fields or at school-related events on or off campus at any time.

Students who repeatedly violate the policy face suspension or expulsion while members of staff face verbal warnings, written reprimand and termination.

The Iron County School District does not include tobacco products or e-cigarettes in their policy, however, the district does touch on suspected criminal activity. If an appropriate school official has reasonable suspicion that a student is engaging in criminal activity, the district reserves the right to search school property, such as lockers or desks, and students’ possessions, such as backpacks or purses, according to ICSD policy code JFGA.

“The Iron Board of Education Governing School Board recognizes that the privacy of students or their belongings may not be violated by unreasonable search and seizure and directs that no students are searched without reasonable suspicion or in an unreasonable manner,” the policy reads. “The extent of the search will be governed by the urgency and seriousness of the alleged infraction, the student’s age and the student’s disciplinary history.”

In the state of Utah, any person age 18 years old who is found buying, attempting to buy, transporting or possessing a tobacco product — including e-cigarettes — can be charged with a class C misdemeanor and a minimum fine of $60 with participation in a court-approved tobacco education program. Anyone under the age of 18 who is found buying, attempting to buy, transporting or possessing a tobacco product is subject to the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.

However, a compliance officer appointed to the school is unable to issue citations for infractions that occurred on school property.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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