Pa. smoking law leaves schools in a cloud

January 30, 1997


Staff Writer, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - School officials and student smokers are asking the same question about a new Pennsylvania law that would send students to court if they're caught with cigarettes on school property.

How is it going to be enforced?

"I support the spirit of the law, but once again I find legislators making us (school officials) the policing body," said Greencastle-Antrim School District Superintendent Duff Rearick.

"In the end it costs us money because it costs us time," he said.

The new law, approved by the Pennsylvania Legislature in November and signed by Gov. Tom Ridge last month, is to take effect on Feb. 3.


The law requires school officials to refer to a local district justice any students caught carrying cigarettes or keeping them in their school lockers.

A district justice could impose a fine of up to $50.

Under the law, smoking or possession of tobacco will be treated as a summary offense and will not become part of a student's record, according to a legislative report.

Although smoking already is banned in public schools, State Rep. Jeffrey Coy, D-Franklin, said the new law was intended to add "extra emphasis" to existing school rules.

"Now it (smoking) is not only against school rules, but it's against the law," Coy said. School officials can call the police and report it as a crime, he said.

Waynesboro Senior High School Principal Larry Bricker said he believes the new law is a good way to encourage kids to stop smoking, because violation carries a penalty greater than suspension.

"It's 50 bucks out of their pockets," he said.

Bricker said, however, he is concerned enforcement of the law might prove a burden to schools.

If a teacher catches a student smoking, the teacher would be required to appear as a witness at a court hearing, he said.

"It means pulling people out of classes who should be teaching," Bricker said.

Currently, students suspected of smoking on Waynesboro school property are subject to a search of their personal belongings, Bricker said.

Those who have smoking paraphernalia on them or who are caught smoking are suspended for two days, he said.

A second offense is a five-day suspension, and a third offense is 10 days. For a fourth offense, the student gets a 10-day suspension and the matter is referred to the school board for further action, Bricker said.

Tuscarora School District Superintendent Ted Rabold said school administrators probably will work with District Justice David Hawbaker and the school's solicitor to come up with some specifics to the smoking policy as it pertains to the new law.

"We want to make sure we do the right thing," Rabold said. "The students need to know what our interpretation and expectations of the new law are."

Out of almost 1,300 students at Waynesboro Area Senior High School, only 30 students have been caught smoking, or in possession of smoking paraphernalia, from the beginning of the school year to the end of December, Bricker said. Other schools show similar statistics.

"Smoking is not an enormous issue to us," said Rearick.

Tuscarora School District doesn't allow anyone, including staff members, to smoke in school buildings.

Greencastle-Antrim's policy states that no one, including staff, can smoke anywhere on school property.

Waynesboro's policy allows faculty and staff to smoke outside on school property.

"If teachers are allowed then students should be," said a 15-year-old Waynesboro student who said she gets "mad or crabby" when she can't have a cigarette.

"Yeah, why can't we go outside and smoke," said another 15-year-old student, who was holding a smoldering butt.

"If people want to smoke they should be allowed to. It's their choice," said one 15-year-old student, who said he smokes a pack a day.

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