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Madison School District walks back proposed out-of-school suspensions for student vaping
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MADISON SCHOOL DISTRICT | BEHAVIOR EDUCATION PLAN

Madison School District walks back proposed out-of-school suspensions for student vaping

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The Madison School District rejected a proposal Monday that would have made out-of-school suspensions possible for students caught vaping.

The Madison School Board approved minor changes Monday to the district’s disciplinary policy — but not an earlier recommendation to take a tougher line against students repeatedly caught vaping on school grounds.

Earlier this month, district administrators proposed a set of slight revisions to the disciplinary policy, known as the Behavior Education Plan, or BEP, which included making the use of e-cigarettes eligible for out-of-school suspension for students who are repeatedly caught and reject alternative consequences.

The district, though, pulled the proposed vaping revision from the final set of changes approved by the School Board after board members expressed skepticism that the threat of an out-of-school suspension would deter the use of vaping devices and questioned whether the approach would be helpful for students addicted to nicotine.

“I’m pleased to see that we’re moving away from punitive punishment in a public health situation,” said board member Savion Castro.

The consequences of possessing or using an “electronic smoking device” next school year will remain the same as they are now: Middle and high school students will receive some level of intervention from support staff, such as nurses, and could get one day of in-school suspension for having a vaping device on school grounds or at a school-sponsored activity.

Jay Affeldt, executive director of student and staff support, said in an email the board’s conversation during a meeting this month led administration to walk back the proposed revision and instead continue to focus on prevention, education and intervention to reduce the use of e-cigarettes.

If it can be proven a vaping device contains THC — the compound in marijuana that produces a high — instead of nicotine, though, a student can receive an out-of-school suspension under a different part of the BEP covering the use of drugs.

Among the minor changes to the BEP the board approved is distinguishing a purposeful attack against staff from “incidental” physical contact.

Currently, a student who makes “incidental” physical contact — such as by unintentionally pushing a teacher who is trying to break up a fight — could get the same consequences as someone who purposefully attacks a teacher, or at least four days of out-of-school suspension and possible expulsion.

Next year, students who make “incidental” contact could get between one and five days of out-of-school suspension but would not be recommended for expulsion. Students who purposefully attack a staffer will automatically be recommended for expulsion.

The board also approved $19,100 for a poll to gauge public sentiment about two potential referendums for the November election — most recently proposed as a $317 million facilities referendum and a $33 million operating referendum.

Last fall, the board spent $19,900 on a poll of likely presidential election voters; results suggested both referendums had the support to pass.

But with the COVID-19 pandemic creating new financial hardships, the board voted to have pollster ALG Research conduct a new poll to see whether the economic effects of the pandemic could change the referendums’ chances.

It will be complete by August before the board’s deadline to place the measures on the November ballot.


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