News Column

FCC trustees update policies on smoking, weapons, force

June 19, 2014

By Rachel S. Karas, The Frederick News-Post, Md.

June 19--Electronic cigarettes and vaporizers are now off-limits for those looking to smoke at Frederick Community College, after the board of trustees voted Wednesday to revise policies governing student and staff conduct.

Tobacco is now defined as "all tobacco-derived or containing products," including but not limited to cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vaporizers, cigars, cigarillos, hookah products and several forms of oral tobacco. Use of those products is banned on all college property other than parking lots. The school's smoking policy applies to all students, staff, faculty and visitors.

Walt Smith, executive director of risk management and public services, said at the board's May 21 meeting that e-cigarettes have found their way to campus as they become more popular countywide. Some students thought it acceptable to use them in class, prompting the school's leaders to look at setting clear guidelines for what constitutes tobacco.

Eight of the state's community colleges are completely tobacco-free, Vice President of Learning Support Wayne Barbour said Wednesday. Five have designated smoking areas; two require smokers to stand 25 feet from buildings; and one only prohibits smoking near its child care area.

Debra Borden, board of trustees chairwoman, said FCC should organize a task force to discuss the pros and cons of entirely banning tobacco on campus.

"I certainly think (the policy) is fine, but I think the idea of going completely smoke-free is much larger and should be considered in the future," she said.

Trustees also revamped FCC's weapons policy to prohibit all weapons and ammunition "unless explicitly permitted." Smith said that will create a procedure for those looking to use weapons for gun control classes, as theater props and more to apply for the school's approval.

Students, school employees and visitors are not allowed to possess, store, use, transport or display weapons or ammunition, according to new policy language. This covers any space or building on college property or vehicle on that property, as well as at any college-sponsored activity on- or off-campus.

Previous language banned firearms and other dangerous weapons except for those carried by law enforcement and educators using them for instructional purposes. Changes approved Wednesday will make the guidelines more stringent, Smith said.

The school also created a "use of force" policy to define what safety personnel can and cannot do in dangerous situations, such as an active gunman. The Frederick Police Department will train FCC security officers in verbal de-escalation and other ways to defuse tension before force is necessary.

FCC "recognizes and respects the value and special integrity of each human life," the policy states. Security officers should balance "all human interests" in using physical force to protect public welfare, it added, and "will use only the minimum amount of force required" to accomplish lawful objectives.

The policy will likely go into effect sometime in 2015, Smith said, to allow enough time to develop a strong procedure and effectively train officers. Security personnel on campus already have law enforcement backgrounds, he added.

Staff and students "expect security to be there for them, to protect them," Smith said. In light of shootings nationwide, "it's a big change."

Gender identity was added to the list of attributes covered by FCC's nondiscrimination policy as well. The move aligns the college with a Maryland law signed last month intended to protect transgender rights. Nondiscrimination complaints and inquiries will now be directed to a Title IX coordinator.

Associate Vice President of Human Resources Don Francis said at the May 21 meeting that the updates will bring the school into compliance with Title IX requirements.

Later in the meeting, the board unanimously nominated Borden and David Bufter for their second consecutive year as chairwoman and vice chairman, respectively. Borden has served on the board since 2009; Bufter joined in 2012.

Their terms begin July 1, but both will serve as interim leaders until the Maryland House of Delegates votes in an upcoming session to approve the appointments. Chair positions are up for nomination each year.

Follow Rachel S. Karas on Twitter: @rachelkaras.


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Source: Frederick News-Post (MD)

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