Bulloch Schools Rule Updates Now In Effect Clarify Vaping Ban

Bulloch Schools Rule Updates Now In Effect Clarify Vaping Ban
Bulloch Schools Rule Updates Now In Effect Clarify Vaping Ban

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Bulloch Schools rule updates now in effect clarify vaping ban

Committee and BOE distinguish non-THC and THC vapes, but all still prohibited, can lead to expulsion

Varieties of disposable flavored electronic cigarette devices manufactured by EB Design, formerly known as Elf Bar, are displayed at a store in Pinecrest, Fla. (ASSOCIATED PRESS/file)

Changes to the Bulloch County Schools student code of conduct that took effect Jan. 1, 2024, re-emphasize that electronic smoking devices are prohibited at all times at schools and school activities and create different categories — with potentially different consequences — between vaping devices that contain THC and those that do not.

Possession of a vaping device that contains no THC is now a violation of Rule 42a, while possession or use of a vaping device that does contain THC — tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive compound found in marijuana, or a range of related chemical compounds — is a violation of Rule 42b.

Levels 1, 2, 3

Depending on a student’s intentions and whether it is a first-time or repeat offense, violation of either of these rules can be a Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3 infraction. In the school district’s disciplinary system, Level 1 is the mildest type of violation, and Level 3 is the most serious.

Meanwhile, an addition to a separate rule, Number 34, in the update unanimously adopted by the Bulloch County Board of Education Dec. 14 clarifies that the use or possession of other items containing THC but “not otherwise classified as electronic smoking devices” is also prohibited. In fact, the listing of non-vaping-device items that contain THC in the Level 3 portion of this general rule against “unapproved items” makes using or possessing these items a Level 3 violation, even on a first offense.

Age-based violation

These distinctions reflect the fact that some electronic smoking devices being sold in Georgia purportedly contain “THC” compounds at levels legal for adults age 21 and up. During the Board of Education’s Nov. 30 work session, Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson asked School Safety Director Todd Mashburn to explain.

“Most all of these that we’re dealing with now are simply the version of THC that an adult 21 years of age and older can buy at these vape shops,” Mashburn said. “I think it’s Delta 8, Delta 10, maybe some other variants out there they’ve come up with now. It’s not the Delta 9 THC extract from the marijuana plant itself, which is a Schedule I felony for any person to possess.”

In other words, the school rules prohibiting vaping devices are aimed mostly at devices that people age 21 and up could legally possess but that children and youth through high school age cannot.

Mashburn also told the board that school administrators have access to testing kits for detecting THC but that these do not distinguish between the variants. However, the disposable, prepackaged devices from vape shops are often labeled as to THC content, he noted.

A ‘frontier’ topic

“What we have been dealing with is, we’re on the frontier of this,” Superintendent Wilson told board members. “There are not a lot of support services around for THC testing and things of that nature. We’re learning a lot of this now, and this was why it was important that we break this out.”

Otherwise, the revisions regarding vaping devices and THC were included in a broader review and update of the code of conduct and consequences for violations. The board had been discussing this update in a series of work sessions, held as public meetings, since July 2023, with input from a district discipline committee that includes principals and other administrators.

Assistant Superintendent for School Improvement Teresa Phillips delivered the committee’s feedback on the vaping device rules during the Nov. 30 work session. This included the recommended separation of the Rule 42 electronic smoking device ban into parts 42a and 42b.

“We felt like just breaking those completely apart and determining if it had THC in it or not was a cleaner, more consistent way to handle those offenses but still kept the intent of what you all originally said and what our committee has recommended,” she told the board.

Other than 42a referring to electronic smoking devices that do not contain THC and 42b referring to those that do contain THC, the rules appear identical in the “Directory of Disciplinary Offenses” that can be found in the updated code of conduct on the school system website, www.bulloch.k12.ga.us.

Recommended consequences

However, the differences are found in the recommended consequences, for which board members informally indicated approval Nov. 30 before formally adopting the update Dec. 14.

The discipline committee’s recommendation, which board members accepted, was for the penalties for non-THC vaping devices to correspond to those for tobacco possession or use violations, while those for THC-vaping devices correspond to those for alcohol.

Under both rules, only unintentional possession of an electronic smoking device can be a Level 1 offense.

“Use or knowledgeable possession,” whether of a device containing or not containing THC, is a Level 2 offense. Distribution or selling of electronic smoking devices, of either type, is a Level 3 offense. What would be Level 1 or Level 2 violations can also become Level 3 violations if repeated three or more times during a school year.

For a Level 1 offense, consequences are determined by administrators at the school level, and can include an in-school conference with possible parent contact, or in-school or out-of-school suspension. In the case of vaping devices, Wilson noted that the devices are also confiscated to be destroyed, not returned.

For a Level 2 offense for possession or use of a non-THC vaping device, the consequences are also those that can be decided at the school level without a hearing.

But for a Level 2 offense for possession or use of a vaping device that contains THC, the recommended consequence is a hearing with a recommendation of expulsion from the regular school program for a semester.

For Level 3 offenses, the recommended consequence with a non-THC vaping device is a hearing with a recommendation of a one-semester expulsion, but with a THC-containing vaping device, the recommendation going into the hearing is for a full-year expulsion. In these cases, expulsion can be to the district’s alternative school program.

“District administrators ask families to regularly remind children that all school campuses are smoke-free and vape-free zones,” Hayley Greene, the Bulloch County Schools public relations director, wrote in a press release. “Possession of any of these type items could result in discipline that includes expulsion from their school with the option to be placed at the district’s alternative learning campus, the Transition Learning Center. Principals were reminding students and their families of the Code of the Conduct updates when school reopened Jan. 4.”

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