Vaping is one of the most dangerous threats to the health of our students. School-aged students who vape are exposed to toxic chemicals that put them at risk for serious, even fatal, consequences. This past week, the death toll in the United States increased to seven vaping-related fatalities and this number appears to be rising. We are taking strong actions as a school district to stop students from vaping, which is the use of e-cigarettes, vape pens, Juuls and other electronic devices that emit a smokeless vapor that is inhaled by the user. Liquid solutions in these vaping devices may contain nicotine, THC or other harmful chemicals which present a significant health risk to the user. Our school district addresses this serious health risk to our students from three dimensions: Enforcement, Prevention, and Treatment.
Enforcement. As per our Board of Education Policy, Code of Conduct, and New York State Law, smoking, vaping and all other similar inhalant devices are prohibited in all of our school buildings, on school grounds, and in any vehicle used to transport children or personnel. Students who choose to violate the Code of Conduct will be held accountable for their actions. At the most basic level, no person is permitted to vape on school grounds and will face consequences if he/she/they violate(s) the law. In the weeks ahead, we will be installing a vape detection system in our secondary schools in order to enforce the law and the Code of Conduct.
Prevention. Educating our students about the possible health-risks associated with substance use (to include vaping) is an integral part of our NYS Health curriculum. We believe that it is much easier to prevent a student from vaping than it is to intervene once a person becomes addicted or a habitual user of an unhealthy or deadly substance. We have added school prevention counselors at SOMS and TZHS who actively address possible risks to students and take actions to keep students safe in “real-time,” in alliance with other staff and students. We have also organized several ongoing community events that include professional development for nurses, school counselors, and teachers. These community awareness events are opportunities to explain the types of devices, how students are able to conceal them, and the vocabulary that students use. Other prevention efforts include:
- Character Education Assemblies/Programs about right choices and decision making (Districtwide)
- Guest Speakers (Districtwide)
- VAASA classroom lessons (SOMS, TZHS)
- Partnership for Safe Youth (SOMS, TZHS)
- SADD Club and sponsored events (SOMS, TZHS)
- DARE, Police and Kids Afterschool program (SOMS)
- Staff/Parent/Student/Community participation in Professional Development focused on Substance Abuse (Districtwide)
Treatment. We recognize that some students may also be trapped in the dangerous web of addiction or engaged in dangerous behaviors that have become habitual. The school district, as such, has an ethical and legal responsibility to play a role in addressing this public health crisis by referring students and families for treatment. We intervene by:
- Following procedural guidelines when the Code of Conduct has been violated (Districtwide)
- Counseling services for students and parents (Districtwide)
- Referral to CANDLE and community resources for parents and students (Districtwide)
- Referral to Daytop, Al-Anon or other appropriate programs (Districtwide)
- Administrator/Counselor/Student meeting to discuss concerns with a follow up with parent as needed (Districtwide)
- Interagency collaboration and coordination of services for students and families (Districtwide)
The South Orangetown Central School District is committed to supporting every student in achieving his/her/their fullest potential. If you believe that your child needs assistance to stop vaping, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has some helpful online resources. Please contact us if you have any other concerns that may allow us to better serve our community. Eliminating this serious threat to our students’ health is critically important and we welcome any suggestions or insights that our community may offer.