During a regularly scheduled meeting of the Johnson County Board of Education on July 27, Superintendent Thom Cochran and Board Chair Bob Hutchison signed two resolutions regarding in the participation of litigation against opioid manufacturers and litigation against JUUL and other manufacturers, distributors and sellers of electronic cigarettes and vaping products.
According to the resolution against JUUL and other e-cigarette companies, the Johnson County School District and its employees spend a significant amount of time and resources disciplining students for the possession of vaping products and also spend a lot of time and resources providing counseling and educational services to students related to the use of vaping products.
Last August, the Johnson County Middle School’s team of Community Problem Solvers got the attention of former Gov. Matt Bevin, state senators and a state representative for leading the way for legislation banning tobacco and other nicotine-containing products from school campuses across the state.
According to the resolution, JCSD believes it is entitled to compensation for the interruption of the educational process caused by vaping manufacturers and distributors.
Similarly, in the resolution regarding participation in opiod litigation, the board argued that the school district, along with others across the nation, have suffered “significant damages as a result of this national opiod epidemic, including expenditures of public funds to address the impact of this epidemic on students, teachers, other staff, and the taxpayers of this district.” This particular litigation is a class action lawsuit settlement and will be filed as a legal claim as part of a Multi-District Litigation.
According to a statement released by local attorney Jonathan Shaw on behalf of Cochran, “The community which was most directly affected by the addiction it caused is the school. Prior to COVID-19, children’s lives largely are lived at their school. It is where they interact with their peers, and in the case of vaping it is where they learn about and obtain e-cigarette products for use ... To the extent the e-cigarette and opioid companies have created and profited from a nuisance they created, it is believed that the school districts have standing to bring the public nuisance actions to help putting an end to the epidemic and to look towards those who have created the nuisance to help fund those specialized education programs needed for the recovery and education of the students and the school environment. There is no up front cost for the district to participate in this litigation and it is believed that the outcome of litigation will provide additional resources and assistance to help those school children and families impacted.”
Shaw referenced that other school districts have joined forces in the litigation. Paintsville Independent Schools Superintendent David Gibson said PISwould not be participating in the lawsuits, but that he “wholeheartedly supports the county’s decision and any action that would keep our students safe.”