CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) — According to CDC data from 2022, about 1 of every 7 high school students reported that they had used electronic cigarettes in the past 30 days. Local school districts are coming up with new strategies to fight back against the teen vaping epidemic.
“Unfortunately, the companies that make this stuff make it so the kids actually enjoy it,” said Ken Cooper, Security Advisor for Mechanicville City School District.
The district installed vape detectors in the bathrooms to curb both nicotine and THC vape use. Cooper gets a message to his phone when the monitor is triggered. It tells him which bathroom and what time the vaping took place. If he or another administrator can’t immediately find the student who was using that bathroom, they can review security camera footage of the hallway to attempt to determine who was there at the time.
What happens next, in terms of discipline, is up to school administration. However, Cooper said their main focus is to help the students out.
“If you have a problem, can we get you some help,” Cooper explained, “and talk to the parents. Do they need to speak to somebody about their vaping problem?”
The monitor also can detect loud noises that may signal a problem.
“Are they busting up the mirrors? Are they busting up the stalls? Basically, it’s just a violence detection,” Cooper said.
It’s not a perfect mechanism, and Cooper said the monitor is sometimes triggered when there is no vape present.
“The bottom line is, we’re doing something here. Superintendent Kolakowski decided, ‘hey, let’s do what’s best for our kids and best for staff.’”
Cooper said the monitor is triggered on a regular basis, providing opportunities for school staff to intervene.
At Scotia-Glenville Central School District, administrators utilize hall monitors, and sometimes limit the number of open bathrooms to curb vape breaks.
“We put an announcement out at the beginning of the day,” said High School Principal Peter Bednarek, “let teachers know and let students know which ones are going to be open. Right now, we currently have all of our restrooms open, and we’re able to cover it with the monitors that we have each day.”
Similar to Mechanicville, there’s an emphasis on educating students about how harmful vaping can be to their lungs.
“The idea in their minds is pretty firmly, that, it’s just vapor, and that it really can’t hurt me. So, it does take some time and research for them to really understand that there is a chemical problem there,” said Bednarek.