New purchase picking up some wind: Olentangy district buys vape detectors for the bathrooms

Students and teachers have dealt with an ongoing problem of seeing a thin cloud of vapor creeping out of bathroom stalls for a while now. As the dangers of vaping are still unclear, the Olentangy district has made a major step in stopping this epidemic.

On Thursday, Sept. 12, the school board approved to spend around $64,000 on new vape detectors in all the bathrooms at the four high schools. The HALO detectors were made in the hope of helping students to quit vaping, according to Principal Trond Smith.

“This is truly a health epidemic for the young people in this country. The dangers of vaping are becoming more and more clear by the day, and lawmakers and manufacturers are taking action to inform and prevent those under legal age from engaging in this behavior.

“Unfortunately, those who have chosen to start become addicted very quickly. If a student comes to us with concerns about being addicted to nicotine or other substances, we can and want to help them,” Smith said.

The detector monitors chemicals that are typically found when vaping; when a certain threshold of the chemical is met, an administrator is notified. HALO is an award-winning company of many home security awards, according to their website. However, the company admits to have restrictions.

On their website, it said the device “is an effective tool to detect vape chemicals but will have obvious limitations. If a person uses physical methods such as filtering through clothing, this can lower levels of chemicals reaching the sensors.”

And for anyone worried it does not record audio, it records sound levels according to Sobel.

“If you can put a smoke detector in the bathroom, you can put this in there too,” Sobel said.

This potential problem could affect whether these sensors’ thresholds are met and if an administrator is notified. The district is hoping that this technology will efficiently help stop bathroom vaping. I don’t know how important this information is to your overall goal of the story. If you’re needing to cut, I would cut this.

“The district is committing a tremendous amount of resources in time and manpower to curb the unhealthy use of JUULs and vaping devices in all the high schools. These detectors will allow us to react more swiftly, and we will get notified in real-time when instances of vaping are occurring. Unfortunately, this will lead to increased discipline but also an opportunity to educate our students on the dangers of vaping,” Smith said.

According to Smith, the district is planning to have the detectors installed in late October or November, and the consequences for vaping will become more apparent to students.

“A first offense for vaping is a three day out-of-school suspension. Follow up education would also be a part of that reduction,” and as a student gains more offenses, more days of out of school suspension are added, Smith said.

After doing a bit of research on their website and YouTube account, the company seems quite successful, and these detectors have worked. However, all tests or demos that are easily accessible online show vapor blown in the direction and in close proximity of these detectors. This begs the question of whether the detectors will really work. A junior student who vapes and will remain unnamed due to privacy issues, was somewhat unfazed by the announcement of the detectors.

“I feel like, no matter what, students are going to vape in school regardless, in the bathroom or not, and it’s possible that they [the detectors] won’t even work,” the junior said.

But some students disagree and think that the vaping detectors could be very helpful according to Sophomore Greyson Thagard.

“I personally think that if you’re dumb enough to get addicted, then nobody will actually be able to stop you, you’ll find another way. But I want the vape detectors to clear the bathrooms. It’s ridiculous that I’ve heard stories of my friends going to the bathroom, even in the middle of class and having every stall closed,” Thagard said.

The district also announced that they are looking into a program that will provide four, 50-minute classes to all students caught vaping. These classes are meant to educate students on the dangers of vaping, but the junior student said this may not help.

“I know the dangers of vaping. I hear about the deaths and so do my friends, but at the same time it doesn’t stop us,” the junior said.

The solution for this epidemic remains unsolved, but with these new steps in helping this issue leaves the hope that the district is on the right path.


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