Teachers get ‘schooled’ in recognizing vaping devices

Deepika Sahota, Staff Writer

On the first day back from winter break, a fire alarm during third period seemed like a normal occurrence; students filed out to their designated areas and waited for the all-clear bell — a bell that couldn’t be heard by most.  

After the incident, many students were shocked to learn that this fire alarm was set off in the boys’ bathroom due to the school’s newly-installed smoke detectors.  These smoke detectors were installed in the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms because of administration’s constant struggle to keep up with the increasingly concealable vaping devices students use.  Administrators at Bear Creek realize that curbing the vaping epidemic is a challenging endeavor, but Principal Hillary Harrell seeks to progressively add measures to limit the use of vaping devices at school.

Along with the newly-added smoke alarms, teachers were given an informative presentation at the end of last semester on the different types of vaping devices in hopes of further assisting them in identifying vaping devices.  Assistant Principals Dennis To and Julie Hummel presented teachers with a bag half full of vaping devices that were collected over the course of only one school day. 

“I was finding that teachers were not aware of the different vaping devices,” Harrell said. “It was humorous because the presentation totally blew people’s minds.  Teachers had no idea what kind of devices students had been using around school.”

“It’s all new to me,” math teacher Lou Vang said.  “It was interesting to see all the different devices because things like this didn’t happen when I was in high school.” 

To many students, the addition of smoke alarms in bathrooms may seem unnecessary, but schools across the nation are taking their attempts to stop vaping on campus to new extremes.  Jupiter Community High School, in Palm Beach, Florida, has resorted to banning students from using the bathroom during class, unless for emergencies. Additionally, if a student uses the bathroom during class, an administrative escort is required.

Nearer to home, Northgate High School in Walnut Creek, has implemented mandatory “vape school” for students caught vaping more than once.  This four-hour course covers the dangers of vaping and provides information on how inhaling nicotine is associated with lung injuries. 

“Seeing these extreme measures hurts my heart because it isn’t the experience [students] should be having,” Harrell said. “We have to figure something out because [students] deserve better.”

Many students, scared of being caught and suspended, have resorted to keeping their vaping devices and other illegal paraphernalia in their cars, unknowingly submitting their cars to “spot checks” — random, surface-level searches.  Many students fail to realize that their property is subject to being searched when on the school campus if an administrator has reasonable suspicion to believe a student may be in possession of illegal paraphernalia. 

“Some students are under the impression that the parking lot is not a part of the campus when it is,” Harrell said. “As soon as a student enters campus, they are subject to search if we have reasonable suspicion.”

 To further curb the vaping epidemic, the cause of the majority of conflicts and suspensions at Bear Creek, administration plans to email teachers images of common vaping devices to continuously educate them.  Additionally, they are planning to hire another campus supervisor.