Duluth Lakewalk users ask students to be more neighborly
Access to the Lakewalk has become as popular with East High School students as it is with walkers and bikers. When Duluth resident Sara Curwin encountered a few groups of students smoking on her daily walks, she asked them to take their smoking e...
Access to the Lakewalk has become as popular with East High School students as it is with walkers and bikers.
When Duluth resident Sara Curwin encountered a few groups of students smoking on her daily walks, she asked them to take their smoking elsewhere. Curwin also went to school administrators and city officials and printed fliers about the issue for the neighborhood.
"I understand there is a smoking culture in the high school," Curwin said she told students, "but the Lakewalk is not going to be your spot."
While she didn't feel intimidated by having to walk through groups of students, she said some people might, and some simply don't want to walk through clouds of smoke while exercising.
"You cannot let 14- and 15-year-olds define how that space is used," Curwin said.
East Principal Laurie Knapp and school resource officer Bill Stauber have worked with Curwin, who is happy with the response. The problem has been addressed on several fronts since school started. The school is being proactive, Knapp said, with Student Council members speaking in classes about being good neighbors, a "No Butts about it" campaign, increased patrols and smoking cessation advice.
School district policy prohibits smoking by students or staff within three blocks of school property. The Lakewalk runs below the school -- which is the former Ordean Middle School -- within that area. There is no city ordinance banning smoking on the Lakewalk.
Stauber has written about 20 tickets for drug use, underage smoking and drinking, or smoking within the three-block zone since the second full week of school, said Jim Hansen, public information officer for the Duluth Police Department. Students received warnings during the first week.
Smoking near high schools, including Denfeld and the former East and Central, is an old problem, Hansen said, but the presence of the Lakewalk adds a new dynamic.
"With a high school being put into a neighborhood for the first time, there are going to be some growing pains," he said. "They will get it straightened out."
The student campaign covers more than just smoking. Respectful parking and refraining from swearing and littering are all part of being a good neighbor, said Cheryl Lien, dean of students.
"The kids are concerned because they do want to be good neighbors," she said. And, "if they can't control their behavior then we're going to end up closing the campus."
Several student clean-up crews are being organized to canvass the three-block radius of the school. Students will also offer free "Bye Bye Birdie" tickets to neighbors to thank them for being patient, Lien said.
An important concern, she noted, is for the health of students who smoke. Those who have shown interest are working with the school nurse on smoking cessation.
On Wednesday during lunch periods, the assistant principal and activities director were seen patrolling the area. No students were smoking on the Lakewalk, but some groups were smoking on neighborhood streets and one couple was smoking while seated on the train tracks parallel to the Lakewalk.
Those students, a junior and a sophomore, said they stepped off the Lakewalk to respect users. The 30-minute lunch period doesn't allow them to walk further, they said, but they usually throw their cigarette butts in a garbage can. They said they were aware of the student-run no-smoking campaign.
"Most kids are aware of it," Lien said, calling the campaign "subtle peer pressure" to quit smoking and be respectful. "They want the image of East High School to be one that's fun to live by. It's a transition for all of us ... and we are trying hard."