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Alternatives sought for student smokers

Linda Hiller, Staff Writer

Students who are caught smoking on campus at Douglas High School may soon have an alternate choice of punishment besides automatic suspension.

“It was a parent’s idea,” said school counselor Sandra Bandy-Nunes. “Her daughter got busted for smoking on the campus and our district policy is automatic suspension for the first offense. This parent asked the question, ‘Can’t we do something better for our kids than suspend them?’ and so we came up with this smoking diversion program.”

The alternative to suspension involves spending a week in a voluntary smoking education program during lunch or after school. The program includes testimonials of smoking-related cancer victims, presentations on stress management by a therapist, a presentation by a respiratory therapist with slides of smoke-damaged lungs and other educational offerings.

“We really would like to get the district policy changed to suspension or the diversion program for kids caught smoking on campus, rather than just suspension,” said Bandy-Nunes, a non-smoker for six months. “I really believe in what this program is about. I’ve been there.”

n Video deters kids. Bandy-Nunes said video cameras installed on the DHS campus last year have largely deterred students from attempting to smoke on campus.

“There’s nowhere to hide anymore,” she said. “We’ve found that kids aren’t smoking on campus hardly at all now, because the cameras can see them. It’s really proved to be a deterrent. We’ve had significantly fewer busts this year – maybe 10 to 15.”

Bandy-Nunes said there is no school-wide prevention/anti-smoking education program in place for students at DHS.

“It’s usually taught in 9th grade health classes at the middle schools,” she said. “It makes sense to educate kids rather than to exclude them, though, and the feedback from the students has been good so far. They were impressed with Dianna (Fett), the woman with throat cancer who had a laryngectomy, and they enjoyed (marriage and family therapist) Lileo Sunderland’s presentation on stress management.”

Bandy-Nunes said the diversion program could eventually be made available to other students who smoke off campus, not just those who have been caught smoking on campus. Those students could be invited to attend the educational diversion program on a volunteer basis, she said.

“I think it would be a great idea to do that,” she said. “Anything we can do to educate them on the health risks of smoking would be a positive thing.”