D-158 looks to punish students caught with e-cigarettes

HUNTLEY – District 158 students caught with an electronic cigarette at school could soon face suspension or expulsion, under a proposed district ban of the popular alternative nicotine product.

Officials are seeing increased incidents of students using and possessing e-cigarettes at Huntley High School and in some cases, the district's middle schools and buses, said Board President Don Drzal.

A proposed change to the district's student discipline policy would allow officials for the first-time to punish students for using, possessing, purchasing and selling alternative nicotine products. Board members gave the change initial approval at a recent meeting.

"E-cigarettes keep taking the place of nicotine. Students smoking and possessing tobacco is already banned as well," Drzal said. "It's not a part of the education process."

The change would group students who have e-cigarettes and other alternative nicotine products with the same students caught with alcohol, marijuana and other drugs on school grounds.

Administrators determine punishments for those students individually, but possible reprimands include a 10-day school suspension, an in-school suspension and expulsion.

The policy likely will be updated within the coming month to include alternative nicotine products, after members have already voiced strong support for the change, Drzal said.

The board is scheduled to take a final vote on the policy change during its regular meeting on April 17.

District officials also were motivated to ban e-cigarettes in the hallways, on campus and at school-sponsored activities after they saw Huntley Village Board members pass an ordinance earlier this year that penalized kids for possessing e-cigarettes, Drzal said.

The board president said he spoke with village Trustee John Piwko, who spearheaded the ordinance, about strengthening the district's polices.

"From an intergovernmental perspective, the timing was in-sync," Drzal said.

District 158 is the latest in the area to discourage kids from using e-cigarettes.

Unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes emit vapor instead of smoke and don’t contain tar and other harmful byproducts. The vapor can contain nicotine, synthetic nicotine or no nicotine, and is usually mixed with artificial or natural fruit flavoring.

Officials in Woodstock and McHenry this year passed similar ordinances to Huntley's one. The state on Jan. 1 also banned the sale of alternative nicotine products to minors.

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