Ashtabula Area City Schools cracking down on vaping


SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP — A new pilot program is adding vaping detectors in several restrooms at Lakeside High School, part of the largest school district in Ashtabula County.

The new detectors can sniff out the e-cigarette vapor, which is something traditional smoke detectors can’t do. 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.

Administrators believe this new technology — which costs about $1,000 per unit plus installation — will help keep students from vaping. 

“We plan to install them over the upcoming holiday breaks,” AACS treasurer Mark Astorino said.

Superintendent Mark Potts said they plan to install the units in four restrooms at the high school — likely two in boys and two in the girls restrooms as a pilot. The plan could be expanded later depending on the effectiveness of the detectors.

“They should be installed by the time the students return from Christmas break,” Potts said. “We have taken our time to research the different devices available and how to best install them. We want to make sure we do it right because we want to discourage our students from vaping and because the devices are pretty expensive.”

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, more than 20 percent of high school students use e-cigarettes.

Last month, Buckeye Local Schools in Ashtabula Township installed vaping detectors, making them one of the first school district in Ashtabula County to do so.

John Radwancky, Buckeye’s technical specialist, said devices have been installed in several student restrooms throughout Braden Middle School and Edgewood High School.

Buckeye is committed to this initiative by implementing a three-pronged approach: policy, prevention and education, Superintendent Patrick Colucci 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.”

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.”

Potts said there have been a few vaping violations at Ashtabula schools, 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.”

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