We don’t have to tell superintendents and their teams that vaping has become a nearly overwhelming behavioral and wellness concern at schools across the country. The worsening problem is now forcing some schools to go beyond vape detectors and detentions and suspensions.
In fact, some jurisdictions are cracking down harder than others as school and law enforcement officials contend with the disruptions, health concerns and crime they see following in vaping’s wake. Several counties in Alabama are taking what’s surely among the nation’s most aggressive responses to the problem. Students caught vaping at school in Cullman County receive a ticket and are being prosecuted in a newly created “vape court,” AL.com reports.
First-time offenders who complete an education class and community service will have their charges dropped and won’t have to pay court fees. Vaping appears to be on the decline in the district since the program started in 2021, AL.com noted. “We had 126 our first year and that decreased by 27% the following year,” a juvenile court official told AL.com. “We actually have a pretty good success rate.”
Vanquishing student vaping
Students caught vaping in Texas risk even harsher punishments. Vaping the key ingredient in marijuana, THC, is a felony in Texas and a new bill passed this year requires that students caught vaping nicotine also be removed from class and placed in a “disciplinary alternative education program.”
Northside Independent School District conducts disciplinary hearings for THC and nicotine infractions. “The number increased twofold just from 21-22 to the 22-23 school year,” Superintendent John Craft told KSAT.com. The district held 1,800 disciplinary hearings last year and a large majority of those involved THC. In comparison, there were 746 hearings for THC vaping in 2020-2021, the station added.
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Brownsville Independent School District students facing felony charges can enter a “second-chance” diversion program through the local district attorney’s office, according to MyRGV.com. Some 14 students recently had pending indictments erased after completing the “Learn, Educate, Appreciate and Develop” anti-vaping diversion program, thus avoiding consequences such as having to disclose a drug conviction on the college aid applications, the website explained.
Leaders at the Marion County School District in Mississippi describe their new vaping policy as “zero-tolerance.” Violators will be placed in one of two seven-step programs, WDAM reported. “One is more of an introductory ‘here’s-what-vaping-does’ and we try to walk them through the stages of, if they have an addiction, how to break the addiction,” Superintendent Carl Michael Day told the station.
Some Marion County students support the rules. “I feel like it’s actually a good thing for the school because it’s a distraction if the kids want to just leave out of class to go vape or just be doing it in class and not be paying attention to the teacher,” high school senior Zion Payton told WDAM.
Funding for prevention
In a bit of good news, about 1,600 school districts are now receiving their shares of a $1.2 billion settlement against vape manufacturer Juul. Districts in Florida are in line for $438.5 million, with the small Okaloosa County School District in the panhandle planning to use its $360,000 to expand its anti-vaping campaign, Superintendent Marcus Chambers told WEAR-TV.