Hall County Schools is launching a committee to address the growing use of nicotine and THC vaping products among students.
Superintendent Will Schofield said the initiative will hopefully spotlight the increasing prevalence of e-cigarettes and vaporizers on school campuses to “try to get parents and the community to see just how serious this issue is.”
School officials began raising warnings last spring, with Schofield preparing a recorded presentation about the purported dangers and school disciplinary policies, while encouraging teachers, students and parents to discuss the issue.
And the problem is metastasizing in local schools, officials said.
“In recent months, there’s hardly been a week that hasn’t passed” when a student hasn’t been caught vaping on campus, said Kevin Bales, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning.
In some instances, students have been found unconscious in bathrooms and transported to the local hospital, he added.
Bales said the school district had made impressive gains over the last decade to curb the use of cigarettes by students through programs like Students Working Against Tobacco.
“It was a very successful initiative,” he added.
But that progress is threatened by the rise in popularity and availability of vaping.
“I think it’s very important we get to work on it,” Bales said. “We’re losing ground on this one.”
E-cigarettes are now the most commonly used form of tobacco by youth in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reports that the belief that e-cigarettes are less harmful than other tobacco products has contributed to this rise.
“They’re sold at almost every convenience store you walk into today,” Schofield said, adding that there has been very little guidance given by federal or state school officials about how to tackle the problem.
Schofield said the ad hoc committee, made up of administrators, teachers, students, school resource officers, parents, community members, would work on a campaign to raise awareness about the dangers and consequences of vaping while also establishing supports and disciplinary guidelines for students and faculty.
“They’re changing a lot of students’ lives, and it’s not change for the better,” Schofield said.
Nath Morris, chairman of the board of education, said he’s very concerned, but believes proactive measures can be fruitful.
“Somebody’s got to own it,” he said.