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Guest Column : Reg Mcshane

Amity School District recently was awarded a $55,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Health Services, which the district will use to implement and administer a school-based Tobacco Prevention and Education program.

The program will include research-based curriculum and practices, have sustainability beyond the grant, and have strong school, community, and county resource connections and partnerships.

Tobacco use remains the number one preventable cause of disease and death in the United States and in Oregon. Funding for our grant came as a result of two Oregon voter approved excise taxes and federal support from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Amity School District is committed to development, promotion, and implementation of a strong wellness plan that includes a tobacco prevention component.

Districts can only be successful in addressing wellness by having solid partnerships in the community and individual participation in our programs. Schools in Oregon and across the country are multiple-use facilities -- we should all take pride that our schools serve multiple purposes. They should be available and accessible to their communities (taxpayers) that provide the funds necessary to operate them.

All that being said, schools need your help! The most difficult time to enforce our Drug (tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs) Free School Zone is during and after out-of-school activities.

The law clearly states that drugs are not allowed on school premises at any time. Unfortunately, I have attended many evening football games and Saturday youth activities where I have had to inform an adult that schools are Drug Free Zones and smoking and/or chewing tobacco are violations of the law.

The help that I ask for needs to come not only from those who violate the law but also from those who don't. We all need to take ownership in our responsibility to say it isn't all right if you are smoking or "chewing" on school property. We owe it to our young people to abide by the law and also not to accept unacceptable behavior.

We (parents, educators, and community members) all share in the responsibility of keeping our young people safe and healthy. Our behaviors and responses to situations and circumstances are the model for our kids as to what is and isn't acceptable. Our actions become an important life lesson.

If we can work together to build strong connections in our schools and community, maintain open and clear communication, and accept our responsibility to take action, we have a great opportunity to have safe and productive schools -- and ultimately happy and healthy young people.

I want to thank the Itemizer-Observer for allowing area superintendents the opportunity to share some thoughts in this open form. I am proud of our public schools in Oregon. I have faith in my local community, and I hope that all of our communities continue to have the opportunity to decide what is best for their students.

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Reg McShane is superintendent of Amity School District 4J

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