School employee, health groups push Wayne Township to adopt tobacco-free policy

One district in Marion County not tobacco-free

INDIANAPOLIS - The Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township is the only school district left in Marion County without a tobacco-free policy, the Call 6 Investigators have learned.

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 one of 49 school districts statewide without a comprehensive tobacco-free policy, according to the Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

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

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, is 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. "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," said Sandifur. "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.

Smoke Free Indy spokeswoman Lindsay Grace told RTV6 only two board members have been supportive of a completely tobacco-free policy.

"The district needs to show their children they care about their students' and their employees' health, and make it a complete tobacco-free policy on all campuses, at all times, and enforced 24 hours a day," said Grace. "The lack of policy in Wayne is unacceptable to the American Lung Association standards."

Grace said students spend an average of 135 hours a month at school.

"We know having a tobacco-free policy can be a real influence on keeping kids from smoking," said Grace.

Tiffany Nichols, tobacco program coordinator with the Minority Health Coalition, said passing a tobacco-free policy sends the appropriate message to students.

"If children are at school for 10 hours a day and they don't see anyone smoking, it will set the tone that not everybody smokes, and to be an adult you don't have to smoke," said Nichols. "The goal is every single school district is tobacco free in the state of Indiana."

Nichols pointed out you can't smoke at most work places in Indiana.

"School is a work place," said Nichols.

Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney emailed Wayne Township school board president Shirley Deckard for a response, but she did not respond and has refused all on-camera interview requests from Kenney.

District spokeswoman Mary Lang said the school board has discussed changing the policy throughout the year, but some board members still feel employees who smoke should have the right to do so.

"The idea of protecting that right for adults to choose and do that has led to the majority of the board thinking the policy should stay in place," said Lang. "In June, they actually looked at a draft policy that would have made smoking prohibited on all of our grounds. They discussed that policy but they've yet to take a vote on it."

Current policy bans smoking at extracurricular events conducted outside on school corporation facilities, except in designated smoking areas.

"We're not a restaurant or a bar," said Sandifur. "We're a school. We're supposed to be a safe haven for our kids."

In central Indiana, the Delaware Community School Corporation and Shelby Eastern Schools are also without tobacco-free policies, according to CDC guidelines.

Delaware schools ban tobacco products inside school buildings and grounds, but health organizations say for it to meet the guidelines it has to state it applies to teachers, staff and students 24 hours a day, yearround.

Superintendent Steve Hall said he is looking into reworking the policy.

For more information on Indiana school districts' tobacco policies, view this list and map

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