B-UHS Prevention Resource Officer: Vaping, social media-fueled stress affecting high schoolers

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Prevention Resource Officer Corporal Rocky Hebb addresses the Upshur County Board of Education Tuesday during their regular meeting at the Buckhannon-Upshur High School. Hebb gave his first-quarter recap of the happenings he has dealt with at the school.

TENNERTON – Upshur County isn’t immune from the vaping epidemic affecting youth, the Upshur County Board of Education learned this week.

During the business portion of Tuesday’s Upshur BOE meeting, members heard from Prevention Resource Officer Cpl. Rocky Hebb who gave a first-quarter update of what was happening in the schools. Hebb said so far this school year, he has completed eight juvenile petitions, four of which were related to fighting, and two of which were drug-related and two which were associated with the “unfortunate threat to the schools we dealt with.”

“I have also had approximately 50 instances which had to do with vaping,” Hebb reported. “It is crazy. We are trying to be aggressive and proactive with that. The staff at the high school, the administration, the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office – we are all trying to be diligent and trying to deter that. A lot of that starts at home as well, in my opinion. But, we are trying to deter those items from coming into our school.”

Hebb said, on a positive note, he believes it has been a great start to the school year.

“You have great teachers here in Upshur County, and you have a great administrator,” Hebb added. “You have great leadership. I have no doubt this will be a great school year, but it will be a busy one.”

Hebb said Officer C.J. Day took another position, which has left him bouncing back and forth between the middle and high schools.

“I am making visitations at the elementary schools,” Hebb said, “but I know there are plans in the works to help with the PRO Office Program in the future.”

While Hebb had the floor, he made another comment about the school.

“I believe, and this is just my opinion, most of your problems lie in these things here,” he said while holding up his cellphone. “If you guys can come up with a way – and this will be a challenge – to keep the cellphones out of the schools and provide the kids with a way for education to compensate that.”

Hebb said if there was a way to fill the gaps and not let cellphones into the schools that would eliminate 50 percent of the problems.

“That’s just my opinion,” he said. “A huge hurdle, but well worth it if you take on that challenge.”

BOE member Dr. Greenbrier Almond said they visited a school in Tennessee where that has happened. “So, I suppose it is possible,” Almond said.

“God bless them,” Hebb said. “I know they were meant for good, but have they ever turned out for the bad … Social media and the stress the kids go under…they have no break from it. If you can eliminate the phones from the schools where students go through the social media, maybe it may be the only time they will be free from the stress and free from the harassment and bullying. Our business here is education and that is what they need. Cell phones are a deterrent.”

In other business, Student Services Director Jodie Akers provided information on a proposed revised policy 4003 which deals with student attendance. Akers said the revised policy came by way of changes in the state policy.

“They removed the requirements to send a meeting notification,” she said. “The last time we updated, the five parental excuses per semester for an illness was removed. So, I have asked that be put back into the policy.”

BOE member Alan Suder asked about student excuses for students attending future colleges, FFA or 4-H activities, such as the W.Va. State Fair. Akers said those activities fall under the extracurricular section and adjustments can be made.

“Usually with children showing livestock during the fairs and festivals, the absences fall under educational leave,” Akers said.

BOE President Dr. Tammy Samples said community members, parents and staff can comment on the proposed revision of the policy on the BOE website or may make comments by attending any of the next two meetings.

In other business, Facilities Manager Tim Derico said there was not much to report; however, he said there had been an electrical issue at the wrestling building at B-UHS.

“They are trying to narrow down the issue,” he said. “Hopefully, we will be able to get that repaired.”

Derico said they had some help painting the new doors installed over the summer.

“Other than two or three doors at Rock Cave, all of the exterior door numbering is completed,” he said. “We are starting to see some heating issues as temperatures drop, but no real big issues.”

Following an executive session that lasted a little more than an hour, Upshur County Superintendent Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus made a recommendation for two days unpaid suspension for Ms. Carla Rogers, who she said has agreed to the same. Rogers is an assistant principal and head of career and technical education at B-UHS.

BOE members voted unanimously to accept the superintendent’s recommendation.

The next Upshur County BOE meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19 at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School.