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Tobacco-Spitting Contest at High School Breaks District Rules

January 12, 1989

ODESSA, Texas (AP) _ Students who participated in a school-approved tobacco-spitting contest sought to recapture the days of the Old West, but they also violated state and local regulations, officials say.

Six students at Odessa High School in this west Texas city took part in the after-school event Tuesday as Vice Principal Vance Horsley and economics teacher Bill Rutherford cheered from the sidelines.

The Texas Education Code and school district policy prohibit use of tobacco products at school-sponsored events.

State Schools Superintendent Hugh Hayes said Wednesday he was disappointed to hear about the contest, and would investigate.

Principal Raymond Starnes said he would talk to the teacher and administrator who staged the contest, which was part of Western Week celebrations.

Rutherford, who is sponsor for the school Student Council, said he obtained approval for the contest from Horsley and was aware of district policy banning tobacco use on school property.

″We sat around and tried to think of pastime activities associated with the Old West,″ Rutherford said. ″We were going to do the cow patty bingo, but we found out from an attorney that that’s considered gambling, so we didn’t do it.″

″I just thought it was unusual circumstances and wouldn’t hurt anybody,″ Horsley said. ″I know it’s a violation. ... I was wrong, but I hate to see something big made out of something like that.″

Starnes said he was aware of the contest, but said Rutherford had been ″instructed to use Tootsie Rolls. I think (Rutherford) was trying to use prunes, too, but he had some reservations about that.″

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