CUSD report

As vaping becomes more common, two Cloverdale schools are trying to prevent it

The rise of student vaping has resulted in the Cloverdale Unified School District investing money in vape detectors — devices that will detect when someone is vaping, and send an alert to school administrators.

In a Nov. 1 Cloverdale Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting, the district voted in favor of providing funding to install detectors in the locker rooms and bathrooms at both Cloverdale High School and Washington School. Vaping — which enables users to vaporize cannabis, tobacco or flavored “juice” — has been an issue for the district for the past five years.

“It’s really taken hold in the past two or three years,” Superintendent Jeremy Decker said. “It almost seems more accepted by students. I guess before, (students) tried to be more discreet.”

“We have seen an increase in the number of incidents involving vaping at CHS,” CHS Vice Principal Steve Stewart said. “They are vaping in the bathrooms mostly during break, during the passing time between classes or during lunch and in out of the way areas of our campus. We have had a number of students, especially the senior class that have come to the administration angry that students continue to vape on campus. They don't like that it's happening on campus so they have actively tried to dissuade students from doing it on campus.”

While most of the vaping seems to be happening at CHS, the middle school has had some cases as well.

“Companies are making things that are harder and harder to detect, so we need all of the help we can get,” Washington School Principal Mark Lucchetti said, discussing the various things that students can do to hide their vaping devices. Lucchetti said students are able to purchase things to hide their vaping devices in, that make it look like they aren’t holding a vaping device.

“We haven’t seen a lot of it,” Lucchetti said. “There were a few instances last year. I would be very naive to say it’s not happening.”

Though Lucchetti is sure that vaping is going on, the school isn’t catching people.

As the issue became more prevalent, the district began looking into ways to help combat the epidemic. Stewart was asked to lead the charge on researching vaporizer (vape) detectors to install on CHS and Washington campuses. According to Stewart, the detector they chose is made by Soter Technologies.

“The vape detectors that we are purchasing were chosen because most detectors can only detect smoke in the room, but these can detect certain chemicals in the air that are associated with vape pens and e-cigarettes,” Stewart said. “They can also detect different sounds that are associated with vaping or smoking in the bathrooms.”

That isn’t all. The detectors can also detect loud noises that are associated with bullying or fighting.

When the device is activated by any of the smoke or chemicals associated with vaping, as well as the aforementioned loud noises, it will send a text message to specific administrators’ cell phones.

No detectors have been installed yet, and Stewart said that the earliest they may be installed is during the district’s spring break.

The district doesn’t think that just installing vape detectors is the best way to handle the issue. Rather, they’re also planning on implementing an educational component — both for students and faculty.

“The educational component associated with the vape detectors is huge,” Stewart said. “We believe that the detectors alone will have a minimal impact on decreasing the number of vaping incidents on campus. The educational component is where we will see the biggest impact. There is substantial support from the company which includes literature on the impact of vaping, educational signs that will be posted around campus, training on how the detectors work, etc. It's not enough to tell students not to vape, we have to show them the impact of vaping, especially on their development of the teenage brain.”

According to Stewart, a representative from the Sonoma County Health Department is planning on attending the district’s next Professional Development Day to help educating staff with information about vaping.

“We feel that with everything (Soter Technologies) has to offer, this could be a game changer for us,” Stewart said.

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