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Pleasanton school board wraps up business before lockdown

Trustees approve pilot vape sensors just before extended dismissal

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The Pleasanton Unified School District Board of Trustees wrapped up some routine business during what turned out to be their final regular meeting before all 15 district sites were dismissed days later in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Pleasanton youths gave an informational presentation at the March 10 regular board meeting about steps taken this year to educate their peers and residents about the dangers of tobacco use and vaping. The TUPE Peer Educators partner with the Alameda County Office of Education and community-based groups to fight youth tobacco use through targeted education for students in grades 6-12.

Tri-Valley communities have taken concerted action to curb tobacco and e-cigarette use, particularly among youths, over the past year. The cities of Dublin and Livermore have banned the sale of flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes in their borders, and Pleasanton is poised to follow suit.

"The school, parents, and the larger community must be involved in the program so that students will be aware of a cohesive effort and concern for their health and consequently, their ability to succeed in school," PUSD staff said in a report about TUPE.

Results from the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) taken by PUSD students in 2018 were shared; nearly one third of juniors in high school have used e-cigarettes, the survey found, and 44% in that group "perceive little to no harm in e-cigarette use compared to smoking cigarettes."

The findings also reported 79% of 11th graders and 59% of 9th graders "believe that obtaining electronic cigarettes or vaping devices is very or fairly easy." Respondents also thought it was harder to get traditional cigarettes; 57% of 11th graders and 47% of 9th graders "believe that obtaining cigarettes is very or fairly easy."

TUPE members have been actively involved in visiting PUSD sites, facilitating school wide events and giving presentations and informative speeches about e-cigarettes and vaping use over the past year. The group has also made appearances at Pleasanton city council meetings urging leaders to support their efforts, and for the public to "begin to see tobacco for what it is -- a legal and addictive drug."

The youth were asked for their opinion on disciplinary measures for students caught vaping on campus, and said "it really depends on what would happen after," such as whether there is a supportive intervention program. One member said "a lot of upper classmen are addicted" and that TUPE has been focused so far on prevention education, so intervention for those already using e-cigarettes and vaping devices is needed.

Trustee Joan Laursen praised the group for "your advocacy and the wonderful presentation," adding, "I just want to commend you for that advocacy work, it really does make a difference, and reaching the hearts and minds of people that make the decisions is a skill-set that will serve you well."

PUSD is applying for grants through the TUPE Grant Tier 2 Consortium and "anticipating participation for 2020-23 grant cycle." The group was also gearing up for Take Down Tobacco National Day on March 18; however, all PUSD campus activities have been canceled in addition to in-person classes until April 14 at the earliest (since extended to May 1 by county order).

In a related item that evening, the trustees approved a $221,599 purchase for vape sensors as part of an overall $9.6 million district-wide Measure I1 network upgrade pilot project. Last month, the board unanimously agreed to look into installing vape sensors at local middle and high school sites for the detection of students using electronic smoking devices.

The sensors were not included in the $10.3 million original project estimate but the district obtained a $468,000 e-Rate grant last year, dropping its price. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, it is now unclear whe the sensors and other new network cabling will be installed. Work was originally scheduled to start next month, according to the district.

Julia Baum is a staff writer for the Pleasanton Weekly. Reach her at jbaum@pleasantonweekly.com or 925-600-0840, ext. 111.

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