WARREN, Pa. — At a Warren County School Board meeting this month, two parents spoke about a drug problem in schools, pointing to vaping.
The district’s smoke-free policies have adapted over time to include vaping.
“The policy handles nicotine and THC the same way we handle other nicotine and THC products – marijuana -“, said Warren County School District Superintendent Amy Stewart. “The policy is written to cover substances in whatever form they come in.”
“The use of tobacco products, which is defined by state law to include vaping products that release nicotine or any other substance, presents a health and safety hazard that can have serious consequences for the user and non-user and the safety of schools and is contrary to the educational goals, the interest, the image of the district and the maintenance of a healthy and safe school work environment”, according to this policy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vapes heat liquid to deliver a variety of aerosol substances to the body. These substances often include nicotine, the addictive ingredient in tobacco products, and can contain it in high concentrations.
“The American Lung Association is very concerned that we risk losing another generation to tobacco-caused disease from e-cigarettes,” according to the ALA website.
Vapes can also be used to deliver THC – the active ingredient in marijuana – or other illicit drugs.
Drugs at school are not a new problem. The delivery system associated with vaping is.
ALA refers to the equipment that heats the substance to be vaped usually in the form of electronic cigarettes.
Electronic cigarettes can look like cigarettes. But, this kind would be easy to spot at school. They can also look like pens or thumb drives, items that any student can have in their backpack or pocket. In fact, rechargeable vapes plug in like any other USB device.
Another giveaway was the fragrant cloud of vapor once associated with vaping. Nor is it necessary now.
“Vaping is a huge problem in schools, so Warren County isn’t alone,” Cynthia Schick, a community services officer at the Meadville Barracks, told the Pennsylvania State Police Trooper. “Vaping is like other tobacco products and is not permitted on school property. This is a law that is not just for students, but for anyone who may be on school property. school.
There is a difference between what is illegal and what is not happening.
“It seems that students have learned to hide vapes at school and have found areas inside the school to go undetected when using them,” Schick said.
Smoking in the boys room?
Sure. But not only there.
“Popular places to vape in schools are restrooms, locker rooms, and school buses,” Schick said. “School officials know this is happening but, like anything else, it’s difficult to monitor all the toilets and changing rooms all day.”
“I’ve spoken with school staff in many districts and they’ve all tried to find ways to limit constant or repetitive use of the restroom,” she says. “Students constantly ask to use the toilet during class and/or between classes. It is obvious that this is not all for the bathroom. Students know they can’t be turned down, so they continually take advantage of teachers and staff. People love vapes because you can hide them and they don’t necessarily leave a cloud of smoke or smell behind them.
There are devices that detect vapes. Stewart said the district has ordered some and expects them to arrive before the start of the 2022-23 school year.
“Some schools install vape detectors which are expensive but effective”, Schick said. “My husband is a School Resource Officer with the Union City School District and they have vapor detectors. The detectors are mainly installed in toilets and changing rooms. The vape detectors are linked to the cell phones of the resource agent and the administrator so that they receive an alert when a detector is triggered and it also tells them which detector has triggered.
This information, combined with cameras in the hallways, helps identify who was using the vape.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “e liquid” often contains nicotine and flavorings.
Second-hand vaping is also possible, according to the CDC.
The juice may also contain THC and other drugs.
“From what I see, kids are getting the THC oils and using them in addition to other e-liquids,” Schick said. These substances increase the level of offense a student faces.
“Most School Resource Officers have the ability to arrest/cite students if caught vaping,” she says. “As long as the resource officer has powers of arrest, he can lodge a complaint with the local magistrate. The judge then pronounces the sentence.
“If drugs or drug paraphernalia are involved, the resource officer may still be able to make an arrest, but if not, local law enforcement most certainly can,” she says. “Once it comes to drugs or drug paraphernalia, it becomes a misdemeanor instead of a summary.”
Warren County Sheriff Brian Zeybel said he intends to speak to the school board about the vaping situation in schools and the steps the district and school resource officers are taking to remedy this situation during the monthly meetings of the committee at 7 p.m. Monday at the central office in Russel.
The Pennsylvania State Police is ready to offer assistance to the district.
“We have programs that we offer to schools on request”, Schick said. “I’ve presented at many different schools throughout the last year in reference to this topic and I’m always open to doing so.”
She also has tips for parents.
“I recommend that parents monitor their children and their cell phones”, she says. “Parents have the right to set rules and impose discipline.”
“Changes in behavior, changes in their social life, changes with friends/groups, changes with school/work are all signs to look for,” Schick said. “A lot of parents have allowed electronics and/or social media to take over parenting and I think that’s caused a lot of problems for young people.”
“Unfortunately, people think vaping is a better alternative to cigarettes, but that’s not true,” she says. “Vapours and all other inhaled chemicals are very dangerous. Later, I believe there will be a lot of information published on the effects and health hazards. Right now it’s too new and people refuse to believe it’s bad.