The public comments section of the Greenville County School Board meeting on Tuesday night was dominated by talk of the dangers of tobacco, questioned whether or not that were enough educational programs on tobacco's harmful effects, while some preemptively warned the board against accepting funding of any kind from the industry.
Evelyn Ashman, who works in the field of medicine, said she sees the harmful effects of tobacco use every day and hopes the district is taking educational steps to prevent more children from falling into the cycle of addiction.
"I work with patients everyday who are suffering from the use of tobacco," Ashman said.
Dorrie Burdine, who is the nurse at Blythe Academy in Greenville, said she sees the effects of tobacco smoke on children as young as those who are in kindergarten.
"Everyday I see young children gasping to breathe. Many of our children are being exposed to tobacco smoke," Burdine said. "Education is the key."
Dr. John Sanders said he was fearful that the school board may be considering receiving funding from the tobacco industry in what has been another spartan budget year. Even Tuesday night Superintendent Burke Royster confirmed that the state legislature's budget allocations fell short of what the district had projected when it laid out its budget for next fiscal year, necessitating the dipping into general reserve fund to the tune of $1.2 million.
Afterward, Sanders said he believed that the Greenville County School District, as well as others, may be considering receiving a helping hand in some way from the tobacco industry, and that a common move being made in many school districts is for them to lay out statements declaring it will or will not receive money from specific companies or industries. Sanders said he was merely preemptively requesting that Greenville as a district refuse to accept money in any way from the tobacco industry.
Royster and other members of the board expressed some confusion afterward, saying the district already does not accept money from tobacco, per standing policy, though that does not necessarily prohibit the acceptance of money from smaller businesses that may sell tobacco at their stores. Trustee Tommie Reece did say there have been some discussions before as to more clearly outlining what kind of cash can and cannot be accepted by the district.
"We don't directly accept funds from the tobacco industry," Royster said.