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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah public schools are asking the Utah State Board of Education for direction on whether educators may confiscate and dispose of e-cigarette products on school grounds.
The short answer is “yes,” but they need to have policies in place that spell out that authority, said Deputy Superintendent of Policy Angie Stallings, addressing the state board on Thursday.
“We feel confident as long as an LEA (local education agency) has a policy in place that explicitly sets the expectations of what is allowed on campus and what is not, and if certain items are found on campus what is going to happen with those items, as long as the LEA is very clear about that in their policies, they have the authority right now to handle electronic cigarettes, tobacco, alcohol, etc.,” said Stallings.
The board approved changes to two rules to further clarify school’s authority on confiscating vaping devices and gave “more clarity on what we mean by electronic cigarette products,” Stallings said.
One amendment requires district school boards and charter boards to update their search and seizure policies to include provisions related to confiscation and disposal of electronic cigarette products.
The board rules will go into effect in early January and largely follow proposed legislation on vaping to be considered by state lawmakers during the 2020 legislative session.
Just as devices that deliver tobacco or THC are prohibited, so are devices capable of delivering “other substances to a person’s respiratory system,” she said.
The changes to board rules were needed as soon as possible so that schools have guidance before the Legislature acts on a package of bills related to the escalating use of vaping by youth. The 45-day legislative session convenes Jan. 27.
Many school districts and charter schools have policies in place, but others have asked for additional guidance on whether confiscated devices can be turned over to law enforcement when there is suspicion of drug use.
Board member Scott Hansen said some students have made a “sizable investment” in vaping devices, some worth hundreds of dollars. “That will be important that that’s (school policy) broadcast clearly to them prior to this going into effect,” he said.
If schools elect not to destroy a vaping device but instead turn it over to law enforcement, model policies need to include language regarding “chain of evidence and make sure that’s tightly controlled,” Hansen said.
Other board members raised concerns that devices that power e-cigarettes such a cellphones or laptop computers would also be subject to confiscation.
“I don’t see cars getting confiscated,” said State School Board Chairman Mark Huntsman.
Stallings said the policy refers to devices capable of delivering nicotine or other substances to a person’s respiratory system, and the substances themselves, but not power sources.
“Our staff feels confident this does not reach cars, laptops or phones,” she said.
Another concern raised by board members was whether children who have medical marijuana cards could be affected by policy changes on vaping.
Medical cannabis should not be in a vaping device, said Patty Norman, deputy superintendent of student achievement.
“That’s not the way it’s delivered medically,” she said.