Smoking areas for students are common at Fairfax County high schools, but the new South Lakes Secondary in Reston will open this fall without one.
The Fairfax County school board has unanimously approved an experimental health education program for the school that establishes a smoking ban and [WORD ILLEGIBLE]for four new staff members of enforce the no-smoking policy.
The new program, a pilot that may be extended to all county high schools if it is successful at South Lakes, also calls for courses in the hazards of smoking and drug and alcohol abuse, which will be more intensive than similar courses in other schools.
School board Chairman Rodney Page called the program "a creative approach" to solving the problems of smoking and drug abuse among teen-agers. He said he was confident that Reston, parents "will be pleased that such a serious effort is being made by the school board."
The board established the pilot program in response to a request from the county Board of Supervisors that the school board attempt to enforce a smoking ban in South Lakes Secondary School. The supervisors reasoned that it would be easier to enforce a no-smoking rule in a new school than in one where students are accustomed to having outside smoking areas.
Earlier, the supervisors had asked the school board to reconsider its smoking policy throughout the system, with an eye toward banning it countywide. The school board decided to keep the smoking areas, saying that banning them would only bring students smokers back to the bathrooms and increase the problem.
Others attending last week's school board meeting, during which the new no-smoking policy was adopted, did not seem so pleased with the board action.
"The money required to pay four people to keep students from smoking won't accomplish anything," said Paul Cevey, former president of the Fairfax County Council of PTAs. "It could be better spent on guidance counselors."
The four instructional aides hired to enforce the smoking ban will cost the schools $20,068 this year.
The aides also will be expected to develop a health education program on the hazards of smoking and drug and alcohol abuse, and other more extensive educational programs for students who ignore the smoking ban or who abuse alcohol and drugs.
In addition, they will be expected to set up a method to evaluate the success of the program.
School board member Gary Jones said it will be difficult to measure the success of the program, "without the presence of 11th and 12th graders who may or may not influence younger students to smoke and drink." South Lakes will open in September with only grades 7 through 10.
Mark Hertzog, a Chantilly High School senior and a member of the countywide Student Advisory Council, called the pilot program discrminatory because it singles out South Lakes. He added that it was hypocritical to ban smoking among South Lakes students without prohibiting staff members from smoking and said the program would be "non-enforceable."
School officials intend to survey all South Lakes seventh and ninth graders to determine if they smoke or use drugs or alcohol. The students will be guaranteed anonymity. Another survey among the same students would be conducted two years later to determine if they have smoked or used drugs or alcohol.
Students from other secondary schools also may be surveyed at the same time to compare the effects of the experimental program at South Lakes. Male and female students would be surveyed separately to see if one group smokes or uses drugs or alcohol more than the other, according to school officials.