The Belleville Board of Education acted to make the district a smoke-free school zone at the most recent school board meeting, but not everyone was not on board. One school board member and a resident each expressed concerns about the smoking ban, with the board member voting against the policy.
The policy states that is “unlawful for students enrolled in elementary and secondary educational institutions to use or possess in plain public view a cigarette or any other tobacco products within the right of way area within a radius of 1,000 feet” of any district school “when classes or other student activities are in session and one hour before and one hour after such activities.” Police officers may enforce the ban when they “reasonably believe there exists a violation,” and the penalties include not less than a $25 fine and no more than $100 fine in Belleville Municipal Court.
The policy states, “Any police officer, after giving proper identification, may inspect any matter, thing, incident or event as necessary” and it is “unlawful for any person to molest, willfully oppose, verbally abuse or otherwise obstruct” the officer, who can request assistance from the Belleville Police Department.
At the Oct. 21 board meeting, board member Ralph Vellon moved to table the policy, but could not get anyone to agree. The measure passed with Vellon voting no. Vellon said he did not want to “turn lessons into criminal offenses.”
“I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a smoke-free zone, but adults can get away with it, and kids can’t,” Vellon said. Superintendent of Schools Richard Tomko responded, saying, “It is the ability of every older person to act as a role model. We can legislate against the purchase (for children under 18), but not smoking.”
“I feel this is a proactive move,” Tomko continued, “Smoking goes on right outside my window. Police can’t help if students cross the street to smoke. This does not hurt anyone, and we’re not going to stop adults from smoking. Students can still measure off 1,000 feet from the school.”
Vellon said the public has concerns that police will be hovering over children. “I have serious concerns that police will be quick to punish and arrest, that they will pursue on agenda and not be protective.”
Resident George-Ann Polite-Hill expressed concerns about the problem of adults still smoking. “This should ban adults, too,” Polite-Hill said, “Second-hand smoke is just as damaging. That is also true of smoke-free E cigarettes.”
Any money collected will go to D.A.R.E. or related programs, the policy states.