Pathfinder at issue: underage vaping spreads on campus
January 2, 2018
Do you remember when you were in elementary school and the only behavioral problems your teachers had to worry about were name calling and running with scissors? Times have changed and high school welcomes a whole new issue for school administrators, and they don’t know how to deal with it. This issue: vaping.
Administrators work to end the vaping epidemic
With an increase in on-campus vaping and a growth in awareness of the issue, students and parents alike demand answers as to what the administration is doing to solve the problem.
With on-campus vaping amping up its appearance around the building, National Education Association Representatives requested principal Jeremy Mitchell train the staff.
“Students have tricks for how to vape in class, so we want to educate teachers on what the mechanisms look like,” Mitchell said. “Department chairmen have sent out visuals to teachers, but a more hands-on discussion is necessary to educate people.”
In response to the previous article regarding on-campus vaping, parents criticized the disciplinary system and the administration for its response.
“I think there should be the same firm consequence for all students, regardless of their previous disciplinary background,” parent Robin Vierling said. “I do not like that not all students have the same consequences when caught vaping, because this opens the opportunity for favoritism. Every student should face the same consequence, regardless of being an athlete, non-athlete, ‘A plus’ student, failing student or delinquent.”
The current disciplinary system is dependent on the history of the student.
“Anybody that is in possession of a vaping device or using a vaping device gets a first offense, which is a long detention,” sophomore assistant principal Mario Pupillo said. “The second offense can be a day long out-of-school suspension. Long detentions are my responsibility, but any time that a student is suspended from school, doctor Mitchell is the one that suspends the students, being the head principal. There’s a letter that goes home from both him and the assistant principal.”
The administrators believe that they are doing what they can to inform the teachers, parents and the student body about vaping and how to prevent it.
“We sent an email to all parents and kids containing general information, because the issue is that there is so much unknown about it,” Mitchell said. “During our late start, officer Scoggins had a conversation with the teachers about the basics and the 101 of vaping so they can know what to look for. Unlike cigarettes where it’s so obvious if a student has been smoking, vaping has all different types of flavors and smells, so it’s a little bit more difficult. We’re just trying to provide everyone with information and to raise an awareness for it.”
Despite the efforts to educate teachers and students, administrators are finding this difficult because of the lack of information about vaping in general.
“We are interested in having further discussion on vaping,” Pupillo said. “I think there are some questions out there still such as ‘Does it get worked into the health curriculum?’ and, as we learn more about the effects of Juuls and vaping, ‘Where does that fit into educating kids?’ and ‘How can we be more proactive on the subject?’”
While many believe that it is the school’s job to keep students informed on the issue, parents think that information is not enough, and to have proper awareness, a strict disciplinary system must be in place.
“I think education starts at home,” Vierling said. “We, as parents, should be having these conversations at home and they should continue at school. Students need to be fully aware of the effects of vaping, but it is not solely the school’s responsibility to teach our kids about it. We should be partnered in the effort. This is why we need the school to have clear consistent consequences for students who choose to vape.”
Along with educating students on the issue, the question that remains is how to stop the students from participating in vaping.
“It’s the administrators’ job to keep the school a safe environment,” Mitchell said. “Obviously, the teachers will help us, but it is primarily the role of the administrators. We want our teachers to focus on helping our students be critical thinkers and lovers of learning rather than focusing on being the vape police.”
While administrators are responsible for controlling the issue on-campus, this system is not sufficient to parents who believe there should be stronger control. “It does appear as if their hands are tied on how to discipline students caught in possession or caught vaping,” Vierling said. “We need a zero tolerance policy with firm consistent consequences.”
Students push faculty to address the issue of on-campus vaping
*Names changed for anonymity
Ross – This student vapes on campus on a regular basis. His parents are currently unaware of the fact that he vapes though he has been caught by them in the past. His parents are not very bothered by the fact that he vapes.
Monica – This student does not vape and does not approve of vaping. She thinks that the faculty should enforce tighter rules regarding vaping on campus because she finds it distracting and does not think that it is a healthy habit for teenagers.
Students are vaping not only on campus, but in plain sight.
“I vape at school all the time,” Ross said. “When I feel like it I just ask if I can go to the bathroom and then I leave for a few minutes and come back.”
Bathrooms and stairwells are frequented hideouts for kids who want to vape during class, but some are even brave enough to use their vapes in class.
“I do it in the classroom just casually,” Ross said. “I sit in the back with my Juul in my sleeve and nobody pays attention to me. No one ever acknowledges that I’m in the back corner vaping.”
Vaping has become so widespread throughout the school because of how easy it is to get away with it.
“They [the faculty] don’t ever check the cameras,” Ross said. “They don’t check anything. If backpack checks were legal I think they would find a lot of stuff in students’ backpacks, but they aren’t legal without a search warrant. If they checked cameras they would make everything so much more difficult because you would have to be so much more careful.”
Though many bathrooms are left unchecked, students have been caught vaping in the bathroom by various teachers.
“I caught one student in the act when I walked into the restroom,” English teacher Dan Barnes said. “He was Juuling but not even in the stall, just out in the open. That was my first introduction to it, before that I didn’t even know what it was. I saw him [the student] smoking something so I just took him to the principal’s office.”
Teachers like Barnes feel powerless in their classrooms and in the bathrooms when they hear talk of vaping, but don’t have the visual proof to send a student to the principal’s office.
“The problem is that students are going into the stalls to do it, and I can hear them talking about it,” Barnes said. “But I’m not allowed to break into the stalls to catch them in the act, so it’s a difficult position when you hear it, but you can’t do anything about it because it’s such an invasion of privacy. Teachers hear students talking about it, but when we only hear it, there’s not much we can do about it. We are powerless in a sense.”
Faculty members such as P.E. teacher and High School Hero director Tommie Rowe agree that our school is not doing enough to keep the halls drug free.
“I don’t know that there are any set rules in place, but I hope rules become set,” Rowe said. “Hopefully, through programs like High School Heroes, those groups are going to start informing the district that this is a problem that they need to address.”
If a student is caught vaping on campus, there is not a set rule that applies to every student.
“Every situation is case dependent, so it is impossible to give a set disciplinary action,” Principal Jeremy Mitchell said. “The disciplinary action would be dependent on the type of vape used, amount of vape, simple possession, actual use of vape, or distribution charges.”
Rowe disagrees with this idea, believing that each student should be punished regardless of their previous record.
“We confiscate it and sent the kids to the principal’s office, and after that, it’s up to the principal,” Rowe said. “Your punishment depends on how many times you’ve gotten caught, which is crazy in my personal opinion. Students should be given a two-week suspension and should have to talk to someone about their addiction. Then, they should be reinstated knowing that, if they get caught again, they’re out for 65 days.”
Not every student is on the side of their vaping peers, and these students think that vaping is an issue that the faculty needs to address.
“I don’t like it when kids vape on campus,” Monica, a non-vaping student said. “ I don’t want to be around the smoke that comes from vaping. It’s illegal and I don’t want to be around anything illegal. It’s so easy for kids to get away with it at school because the teachers don’t do anything like check the bathrooms during class or during lunch.”
Some teachers, like Rowe, believe that precautionary measures need to be taken to make sure that kids caught with these products do not get away clean.
“It’s going to take someone higher up in the district to say that we’re not going to let our students get away with something like this because it’s becoming such a big issue,” Rowe said.
Without the faculty taking the initiative to stop on-campus vaping, students are left wondering what to do when they see a classmate using those products in class or in the bathroom.
“You can smell it, and you can see it and you know it’s not what they’re supposed to be doing and you want to stand up and tell them it’s not right,” Monica said. “But you don’t want to be the snitch, so it’s an awkward moment where you think ‘What do I do?’”