LINDSEY ENNS/BRANDON SUN
Grade 12 Vincent Massey High School students Zanina Bird and Alec Chambers take a break in their school’s auditorium on Monday afternoon. Both students say they agree a scent policy is needed in their school, but feel more clarification is necessary before it’s implemented.
The Brandon School Division will soon be introducing a division-wide policy to help regulate the use of scents in schools after trustees voted unanimously in favour of the motion during Monday’s regular board meeting.
Once in place, the policy will serve to discourage students, staff, parents and visitors from "over-scenting" themselves, school board chair Mark Sefton said.
"School is tough enough for a lot of kids, but if in their school they’re having troubles breathing because somebody is over-scented, then I think there’s a duty on us to deal with that and that’s where we’re going," Sefton said.
Consulting with students and parents will also be part of the implementation process, he said.
"The next stages include developing the procedures, how are we going to deal with this on a day-to-day basis? How are we going to enforce it? We’ll also involve some consultations."
One local student agrees that before the policy is introduced, the details surrounding it will need to be made clear.
"Or else it’s just kind of like a curveball not knowing if I have to buy no-scent this and that, but I think if we have certain guidelines to follow we will be OK," said Zanina Bird, a Grade 12 Vincent Massey High School student. "Like the dress code, it’s hard to implement all that but I do think it should be passed and brought to students’ attention."
Although Bird admits it will be "a huge change for the whole school," she believes students will benefit from a scent free environment.
"Even if you’re not feeling very good, that extra scent can just push you over the edge and distract your focus."
Since so many personal hygiene products contain scent, such as makeup, body lotion and laundry detergent, Bird wonders what she’ll have to cut out of her day-to-day routine.
"The scent of deodorant, if that’s OK or just like a little spritz of perfume or Axe. It’s just going to be hard to measure what’s acceptable and what’s not," she said. "I think it will be difficult to measure that way because it will be different for every person. But if they give us enough detail and explanation, I think it will go well."
According to the BSD website, the scent and fragrance-free policy refers to products that produce scent strong enough to be perceived by others. These include colognes, perfumes, aftershave products, lotions, powders, deodorants, hair products, cleaning products and other scented personal products.
"The use of scented and fragrant products and highly scented flowers by Brandon School Division employees, students, parents, visitors and volunteers is discouraged. Use may be prohibited if circumstances warrant. The Brandon School Division will utilize appropriate signage for informing visitors of the fragrance limitations," the policy reads.
Another local student hopes the policy will prevent others from spraying scented body sprays and perfumes in the hallways at his school.
"The only times it’s bothered me is when they spray it in the hallways and you have to walk by and it forms this cloud of air," said Alec Chambers, a Grade 12 Vincent Massey High School student. "If you’re going to spray it around other people, you should have it taken away or something because it’s nothing more than a distraction at that point."
Education will play a key role when it comes to implementing the policy division-wide, Sefton said.
"We want to take a common sense approach, we don’t want a heavy-handed kind of approach at all," Sefton said. "We want to be able to work with people."
A division-wide scent policy is new to Manitoba schools, he said.
"We’re not aware of any other school divisions that have a divisional policy," he said. "There’s certainly other school divisions that have a school by school kind of decision, but we felt it was more important to have a full divisional policy."
Trustees hope to have the policy implemented by January or February.
After receiving complaints from staff, the school board started looking into developing a division-wide policy that would require people to refrain from using perfume, cologne and other fragrances in schools, as the Sun reported in November 2012. The idea behind the policy came from a health and safety committee made up of teachers and support staff, as well as an education committee.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 10, 2013