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Shade vapes to fall under drug policy

January 8, 2019

Vaping devices in the Shade-Central City School District should soon fall under the drug policy.

During a school board meeting Monday, the board unanimously voted to switch the devices from falling under the tobacco policy. The change is contingent on approval from the district solicitor.

High school Principal Sean Wechtenhiser said that under the tobacco policy, if a student is caught with a device they receive a three-day suspension and a fine at the magisterial level.

Wechtenhiser said that recently a student contested the fine before District Judge Bill Seger, of Windber, and had the charge thrown out after Seger determined the substance used in vaporizers is not tobacco.

Under the drug policy, he said, students will still be given a three-day suspension and could have to complete a tobacco cessation class.

He said that the vapes are odorless and difficult to find on students, and that other drugs, like liquid THC and bath salts, can be smoked in the devices.

“They’re becoming more and more — not just us — statewide,” he said of the frequency of students possessing the items. “They’re difficult to find on kids.”

He said that although Shade hasn’t had any instances of students smoking drugs from the vapes, under the drug policy guidelines, look-a-like drugs are covered.

District solicitor Jeff Berkey, of Fike, Cascio & Boose in Somerset, said that he didn’t have concerns after an initial look at the policy change. Berkey added, however, that he has to examine it more before giving his approval.

He said that with the policy change, the district is not looking to bring charges against students found with the vapes.

“We’re not looking at any criminal violations,” he said. “It’s just a disciplinary thing.”

Also during Monday’s meeting, the board unanimously voted not to raise the property tax rate for the 2019-20 school year above the district’s adjusted Act 1 index of 3.3 percent. Act 1 is a state law designed to protect taxpayers from exorbitant increases.

District business manager Stacey Papinchak said that it is too early to discuss budget details.

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