SEQUIM — Recent changes in laws regarding tobacco and vaping products — and how that applies to school-aged children — could spark modifications to the Sequim School District’s related policies and procedures in the district.
Sequim School Board members heard a presentation Jan. 21 from Sequim Police Officer Kindryn Leiter about recent state law making it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to purchase any tobacco or vape products.
It is still legal for those between the ages of 18-20 to possess and use tobacco and vape products in general, but it is still illegal for anyone to sell or give those products to someone under 21.
That means that if tobacco or vape products are confiscated from a student by school representatives, they cannot legally be returned to that student, she said.
That left several board members wondering how to proceed with updating the relevant school district procedures. Returning such products to a parent could leave that parent open to accidentally breaking the law by returning it to their child, they noted, as there’s no proviso in that law to protect parents giving those products to their children age 18 or older.
Leiter also spent some time showing the board images of a variety of vaporizer products she’s encountered, with many of them cleverly disguised. In addition to the more traditional and obvious vaping “rigs” or Juul devices that closely resemble a USB stick, Leiter showed images of vaporizers built to resemble phones, car key fobs and markers, as well as one that was built into a hooded sweatshirt, utilizing a replaced drawstring as the mouthpiece.
Board vice president Eric Pickens said he wants additional training for teachers and staff to help them better identify vape and tobacco products.
Board director Brian Kuh said that he’s “very concerned” about making sure the board tackles the policy and procedure updates carefully and correctly to address their concerns about vape use in the district, which the rest of the board directors present — director Jim Stoffer was excused with an illness — agreed with.
“The hardest part of this is catching [vaporizers] in use,” Leiter said.
The board also had a more positive message, with two Sequim teachers honored for receiving National Board certifications. Sequim Middle School teachers Casey Lewis and Brad Meckley both received certifications in special education.
Three other teachers received their five-year renewal certifications, as well, including Matt Duchow, Christy Ditlefsen and Stephanie Grotzke-Nash.
The process of receiving a national board certification takes between 200 to 400 hours over the course of a year or more, and is purely voluntary. According to superintendent Rob Clark, there are about 30 such certified teachers in the Sequim School District, and Washington state as a whole has the third-most certified teachers in the country.
The board also celebrated officially receiving a letter of recognition from the national Advanced Placement board for pacing in the top 250 schools nationwide for overall AP performance at Sequim High School.
That performance is based on AP tests taken, the scores in those tests and overall improvement in AP performance in the district.
“This is a very significant achievement,” Clark said. “I am so proud of the work being done in our AP classes to help these students succeed.”
According to a short document shown to the board, the district has seen a 34 percent increase in AP exams taken over the last five years despite a drop in overall attendance at SHS, with a nearly 250 percent increase in the number of “5” scores earned in those tests, the highest possible score a student can earn.
Conor Dowley is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].