Stamping out smoking
New policy could mean designated student smoking area

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Dec 11/98) - Though no one at Samuel Hearne school enforces the current GNWT law banning smoking on GNWT property, the District Education Authority is seeking input from residents to draft a new school policy by February to potentially start enforcing the restriction.

"We have no one policing or supervising at lunch time and the school, in essence, pretty much closes down, so nothing happens to (students who smoke on school property at lunch hour,)" says Samuel Hearne and SAM school principal Bernie MacLean.

"We've done that consciously. We've said we're not enforcing the smoking laws."

GNWT health promotion officer Rick Tremblay explains schools are government buildings and GNWT bylaws already ban smoking on GNWT property.

That said, the bylaws are generally only enforced inside GNWT offices and vehicles, leaving many GNWT workers to smoke just outside their building entrance.

At a public meeting hosted by the DEA in the SAM school gymnasium Dec. 2, DEA chair Davis Mitchell urged the dozen or so Inuvik residents who attended to support his move to make small steps in the battle against youth smoking.

That means establishing a designated area on school grounds where students can smoke. The area would be less public than the front entrance where student smokers often hang out now, creating a bad example for other students, according to Mitchell.

"If we can get everybody on board and say 'this is what our community wants,' then let's run with it."

DEA member Mary Beckett agrees with the non-smoking message, but says valuable staff time is better spent focused on educating kids.

"I think we have more important things to do than go around chasing kids with cigarettes," she told the meeting.

"Funding is stressed to the max."

Mitchell's proposal includes discipline procedures for those caught smoking outside the designated area.

The first offence would net a warning where the policy would be reviewed with the student.

Parents would be contacted after the second infraction and the policy would be reviewed with parents and the student.

The suggested third- offence penalty is a three-day out-of-school suspension where the parent must return to the school with the student.

If the suspension does not keep the student smoker in the designated area, a fourth offence could yield an extended suspension up to possibly 20 days.

DEA member Yvonne Carpenter similarly agreed with Beckett, saying, "Teachers are so busy trying to teach inside the school, their time is at a premium. Teachers have the right to take the lunch hour off."