Evaluation of School Tobacco-Free Policies in a Rural Northern Plains State


  • This project was funded through a contract with the SD Department of Health and Department of Education. The team acknowledges the contributions from all the participating schools, Kari Senger, Co-Director of SD Coordinated School Health, and Linda Arendt, Administrator of the SD Office of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of SD Department of Health or the SD Department of Education. The authors also thank undergraduate research assistants Alissa Johnson, Taylor Mertz, Elizabeth Nagelhout, and Megan Pickner for their assistance with TFS policy collection.



The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has called for tobacco-free school (TFS) policies. In South Dakota (SD), a rural state with a large American Indian population, collaboration between state agencies focused on development and dissemination of a model TFS policy in 2008. This study explored the current status of TFS policies in statewide SD school districts.


Tobacco policies were requested from all SD school district administrators. A 26-point checklist based on CDC TFS policy guidelines was used to evaluate policies. Follow-up interviews were conducted with selected superintendents.


Policies were received from 144 of 217 districts (66% response). Participation was higher for public districts than tribal/Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) districts and nonpublic districts. The overall mean policy score was 11.6 (SD 5.1). Public school districts had the highest mean (12.3) followed by nonpublic (8.9) and tribal/BIE (7.5). In a subset of districts with a large American Indian population (>30%), policy scores were lower for those located on reservation or tribal lands compared with other locations. Barriers to policy development were identified as time and staff expertise.


There is a need to improve statewide TFS policies. A district report card with recommendations for improvement and a resource guide were developed and disseminated.