No vaping allowed for Pickerington athletes

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By Lori Smith
Staff Writer

In following with the current trends, student athletes in the Pickerington school district will soon be prohibited from using e-cigarettes.

At the June 25 meeting of the Pickerington Board of Education, the board heard the second reading of changes to the 2018-19 athletic handbook, which include new stipulations for vaping and juuling, which are types of e-cigarettes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), e-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youth. E-cigarettes produce an aerosol by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals. Although some look like regular cigarettes, others resemble pens, USB sticks and other everyday items. They can also be used to deliver marijuana and other drugs. According to the CDC, in 2016, more than 2 million U.S. middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, including 4.3 percent of all middle school students and 11.3 percent of all high school students.

With the new stipulations in the 2018-19 athletic handbook, vaping/juuling will be treated like the use of alcohol, illegal drugs or tobacco. For the first violation, the penalty will be prohibition from athletic participation for a minimum of 50 percent of the scheduled contests of that sport.

The athletic administrator may reduce that penalty to 20 percent for participating in a program of counseling at the expense of the athlete. In addition, all vaping and juuling violations will be treated as a drug violation. Should the parent and/or student athlete challenge the drug charge, they can have a drug test at their expense within 24 hours of the initial violation. The penalties increase for a second or third violation.

The board will hear the third and final reading of these changes to the athletic handbook at their next meeting, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. July 16 at the district office, 90 N. East St. in Pickerington, adjacent to Heritage Elementary School.

Working together for students
The board heard a presentation from the special education department led by Kristina Hulse, director of special education. She explained how Pickerington is on target for state numbers for students with disabilities, as 14.7 percent of the students have been identified. She said the goal is to keep the students in a traditional classroom for 80 percent of the day, because studies have shown they perform best that way.

Julie Pitman, school psychologist and member of the autism support team, explained how they formed the “A Team” in 2012-13 to better serve the students.

“We’re a little bit different than an assessment you would receive elsewhere,” she said. “What we do is all work together.”

They do a high-quality evaluation that includes structured and unstructured observations, in-depth parent interview, teacher survey and more.

“As a team we sit down together and discuss what formation we want to take back to the building team,” she said, noting they average 15 evaluations per year. “The members of our team are the best of the best. We really learn a lot from each other.”

They special education office also created a “B Team” to address behavior issues, explained Brittany Turnbull, special education coordinator.

“Our mission is to be a resource for our staff and families,” she said. “This is our second year and we’ve had 18 referrals, which is really amazing.”

Blythe Wood, special education academic/behavior coach, explained how her role is to provide classroom support.

“Our teachers are being presented with a lot of structured programs,” she said, noting they sometimes need help implementing and tweaking them.

“I know next year we have some big ideas,” she said, noting a website for teacher and parent support is on the horizon.

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