Parents fired up over school district's lack of change in tobacco policy

Parents say proposed changes do not go far enough

INDIANAPOLIS - Parents in the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township are fired up about a possible change to the district’s smoking policy , saying it does not go far enough to protect children.

More than 250 Indiana schools have tobacco-free policies, meaning students, staff and visitors can't use tobacco anywhere at any time on school grounds.

MSD Wayne Township is the only school district in Marion County without a comprehensive tobacco-free policy, according to guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The district currently bans smoking in school buildings, but it allows employees to smoke on school grounds in designated areas.

According to the proposal , MSD Wayne would add e-cigarettes to the policy and require designated smoking areas be located eight feet from a building entrance.

State law already states places of employment may allow smoking in areas that are located outside of the structure “provided they are eight feet from all public entrances of the establishment.”

"Why we can’t get this straightened out, I have no understanding," said Floyd Keith, a parent with three children currently attending school in Wayne Township. "I think any reasonable person knows the problem with smoke. You don’t have to smoke to be affected."

Keith and his wife Nicole are opposed to the school board’s proposal, which will be heard on second reading at a Nov. 25 school board meeting.

"We're just trying to show that we're trying to keep our kids safe. This isn't about the adults. It's about the kids," Nicole Keith said.

"Eight feet from an entrance doesn't take into account wind," Floyd Keith said. "You still are going to have the effects of smoke."

Wayne Township's school board passed its smoking policies in the mid-1980s and last updated them in 1996.

Lorene Sandifur, a Wayne Township math teacher, has been trying to change the district's policy with the help of health organizations like the Minority Health Coalition and the American Lung Association.

"Oftentimes, there will be people out there smoking when I'm out running on campus, and we have to wade through tobacco smoke," said Sandifur in November 2012. "I think as a school system, we should be setting an example to our students."

Sandifur lost her husband Gary, a longtime smoker, to lung cancer.

"He did quit before his 50th birthday, but it was too late," Sandifur said in 2012. "Our students are being exposed to secondhand smoke, and that's a big concern because secondhand smoke has so many deadly toxins in it."

The American Lung Association, in cooperation with Smoke Free Indy, has been pushing school board members to change their policy.

“We are disappointed in the Wayne Township School board's recent proposal regarding tobacco use on school campuses, which would maintain the district’s status as the only school district in Marion County that allows tobacco use on school property,” said Lindsay Grace, Manager of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in Indiana. “The proposed policy will continue to allow the use of tobacco products on school grounds, including elementary schools, continuing an environment where children are exposed to secondhand smoke, witness adults engaged in an unhealthy lifestyle and are tempted to begin their own addiction.”

Click here to read the full statement.

School district spokeswoman Mary Lang told Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney the board is revising its policy to reflect changes made by the state and Marion County.

"We're going to refrain from a statement at this point in time as the board works through the process of refining its policy,” Lang said in an email to Kenney.

The issue will be discussed at the next board meeting on Nov. 25 at 7:30 p.m. at the Education Center located at 1220 South High School Road.

Follow Kara Kenney on Twitter: @karakenney6 | Facebook: KaraKenneyNews

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