Administration should enforce smoking prohibition for staff

By Rachel Lang

Staff members who smoke on the loading docks in the back of the building are generating controversy among their colleagues and students. Their cigarette breaks violate MCPS policy COH-EA, which prohibits the sale or use of tobacco on school grounds during the official school day.

Graphic by Annie Russell.

Principal Alan Goodwin should enforce this policy more strictly for faculty. Security quickly catches and punishes renegade students, but teachers think that administrators turn a blind eye to adults smoking on school property.

While the administration can easily punish students by confiscating their cigarettes and giving them a detention, disciplining adults is more complicated, Goodwin says. He typically has a conversation with adults who are seen smoking and notes that they usually stop—for a time. Then, the process starts again.

Not all staff members appreciate the administration’s leniency. Math teacher Steven Koppel has experienced secondhand smoke for the past seven years. His complaints often only improve the situation temporarily, he says, and once, he even received a note in his box warning him to “mind your own business.”

Smoke wafting up into classrooms from the docks in the back of the building distracts teachers and students, especially as the weather heats up. Math teacher Meg Thatcher says she and her fellow teachers often open the windows for some fresh air, only to encounter the acrid smell of burning tobacco.

After sitting through years of anti-tobacco messages, it’s ironic that students are subjected to the smell right on school property. Required health classes preach smoke-free lives, pamphlets warn against tobacco’s consequences, and countywide programs like Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) advocate to the entire school. MCPS even introduced the “Quit for Good!” campaign in Nov. 2011 to help employees stop smoking.

Staff members set a bad example for teens by smoking on school property. Dr. Goodwin needs to hold them just as accountable as he holds students.