ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP — In an effort to be proactive in deterrence of use and the detection of electronic vaping, Buckeye Local School District is installing smart-sensing, electronic vape detection devices into its middle school and high school.
John Radwancky the district's technical specialist, said devices will be in several student restrooms throughout Braden Middle School and Edgewood High School.
Buckeye had 18 juvenile vaping violations at Edgewood and 10 at Braden during the 2018-19 school year. A dozen Edgewood students were cited by a school resource officer and 10 students at Braden were cited.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, more than 20 percent of high school students use e-cigarettes.
Six people in the U.S. have died from lung disease related to vaping, and there have been more than 450 possible cases of lung illness related to the practice, according to the FDA.
Earlier this week, President Donald Trump's administration moved to ban flavored e-cigarettes, which are popular with young people.
So far this year, Edgewood has had only one tobacco violation and none have been reported at Braden, according to school officials.
Buckeye is committed to this initiative by implementing a three-pronged approach: policy, prevention and education, Superintendent Patrick Colucci said.
Administrators are reviewing current policies on tobacco use and are looking to update those policies to include electronic vaping, he said.
"The installation of the detection devices aims to discourage and prevent vaping incidents that typically would occur in the student restrooms," Radwancky said. "The administration is also working closely with school nurses to help educate students on the harmful effects electronic vaping can have on them."
Colucci said the action came about after the steady increase in news stories about the harmful, and sometimes fatal, effects electronic vaping devices can have on users.
"Though we are here to educate, our primary responsibility will always be the safety of our students," he said. "With these new smart-sensing devices, Buckeye Local Schools is adding another layer in our safety and security plan. We are proud to be one of the first school districts in Ashtabula County to position these devices into our buildings."
The units not only detect the chemicals commonly found in electronic vaping devices, but also can detect THC, monitor air quality, sound frequency (detection of aggressive behavior), and chemical detection (carbon dioxide, monoxide). The smart-sensing units have the capability to send email or text alerts to designated personnel for quick response to alarm notifications.
At A-Tech in Jefferson, Principal Paul Brockett said school officials also are concerned about the health implications of vaping.
"We put a vaping detector in [one of the bathrooms] to test it out," he said. "We got a mobile one so we can move it around."
Ashtabula Area City School officials are working on a pilot program to install vaping detectors in several Lakeside High School restrooms, said Mark Astorino, district treasurer.
"If the detectors function properly and are effective, we will expand to other areas of the high school building, as well as the junior high school," he said.
Ashtabula Superintendent Mark Potts said they are relatively new devices so the district is checking into what would work best for them.
"There have been a few vaping violations, but we know it is widespread — if not epidemic — nationwide with teenagers," he said. "We will be proactive in keeping our students as safe and healthy as they can be."