Effectiveness of vape detectors since installation

In September, the Hilliard City School District announced that it would be installing vape detectors in its three high schools. This month, I set out to evaluate the effectiveness of these detectors since their installation via reaching out to various sources in the district. I was able to receive separate responses from Jon Gleason, the Student Resource Officer at Darby, in a face-to-face interview, and Matt Anderson, Assistant Principal at Davidson, through an online interview. When asked the same set of questions, these were the answers I received.

SE: When did you realize that vaping was becoming an issue at Darby, and what were the first steps taken to tackle this issue? 

JG: Last year was the first, I guess, I don’t want to say clues, but obvious problems with the bathrooms, with individuals hanging out in the bathroom doing it, and then having the ability to determine when that was occuring, and how frequently, and having the ability to walk in and hit everybody. I or a hall monitor or administrator, we can’t hang out in every bathroom 24/7, or we’d get nothing else done.

SE: Before they were installed, how did you anticipate the success of the vape detectors in the bathrooms?

JG: With the obvious social media, I don’t want to call it a blitz, but announcements and media coverage, I expected them to be more of a deterrent, or have more of a deterrent effect, at least for the individuals that aren’t as prone to doing stuff like that.

MA: Our hope was that the detectors could be utilized as a part of an educational conversation with students about the dangers associated with vaping, especially in light of the all the lung injuries nationwide that have been linked to vaping.

SE: Did the criticism from the community online have any effect on you specifically? 

JG: No, like I said. it’s there to help stem or curb what I see as a health issue for students. Part of my job is to help protect the students, and it’s just another aspect of doing my job. 

SE: How effective have the detectors been so far? Are you able to share the statistics that go along with that?

JG: I don’t know if I can actually quantify that in any way, shape, or form. Is it maybe having more of a deterrent effect, same as I do walking the halls to keep people from doing things they shouldn’t do? Yes. But to be able to put a statistic or a number to it? I have no way to do it. I know the morning they went live and functioning, I had a few notifications come through within the first twenty minutes, so yeah. Have they worked? Yes. But like I said, are they going to get everybody, every time? No.

MA: The detectors have served as a beneficial tool in raising awareness about the dangers of vaping.

SE: Do you think that more detectors in your building would help to eliminate the issue?

JG: Again, I think it would be more of a deterrent effect. If you walk in and you know it’s in there, are you necessarily going to go to the bathroom to do that? Probably not. Does it mean they might migrate elsewhere to do it? Yeah. I think the biggest thing we can do is more of an educational aspect in conjunction with them just so we get the knowledge out there of what’s exactly contained in the chemicals that they’re putting into the body. 

MA: Being educated about the dangers of this harmful practice is what is going to help deter students across the country from using vaping products. The negative effects of vaping have been headline news across the country because little is still known about the longitudinal effects, apart from the acute lung injury outbreak that has been recently linked to vaping. The detectors allow us to have that awareness conversation so students can avoid the potentially deadly consequences of drug use and vaping.

SE: Do you think that it’s realistic to eliminate all instances of vaping any time soon in your building?

JG: There’s always going to be that specific portion of the population that’s going to go against, I don’t want to say societal norms, but they’re going to break the rules just because they think they can or they want to. It’s just like smoking, drinking, I mean, prohibition— it was illegal. People still found a way around it. I don’t think this is going to be any different unfortunately.

MA: It is crucial that we continue to educate our students about issues that can negatively affect their well-being. It is a conversation that we are committed to as long as an issue is present that has the potential to harmfully affect our students’ lives.

SE: Any final messages to our students in regards to this so called ‘epidemic’?

JG: Think about what you’re actually doing and putting into your body, and is it worth the potential long-term, or in some instances, short-term health ramifications? I mean, you’ve got medical studies going on now where seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty year old kids are in the hospital with lung issues that aren’t going to be repaired and cannot be fixed. You just shortened your lifespan by fifty, sixty years. Why? 

  A recurrent theme in these interviews is that the detectors are being used more as a deterrent from students vaping in the high schools, as opposed to catching students in order to suspend them. This opens up the topic of conversation for students surrounded by vaping. Anderson refers to the detectors as a “tool in raising awareness about the dangers of vaping”, as opposed to stating whether or not they have been effective. Gleason on the other hand, states that the detectors have been effective from a functional aspect.

   The question at hand, “how effective have the detectors been so far?” is very open-ended. It seems the detectors have been operatively effective in terms of catching students in the act of vaping at school, but that is not their main purpose. Throughout my process, I discovered that maybe ‘effectiveness’ shouldn’t be the focus of the detectors at hand, but rather, what is their purpose? The aim of these devices is to spread awareness to the bigger issue— teen vaping as a whole. 

   By installing these detectors and gaining coverage across the community, it brought awareness to the bigger issue, and opened up the possibility for conversations to be held between parents and educators alike with their students about vaping. It is undeniable that vaping has harmful effects on the body, with many recent cases breaking out of teens hospitalized due to irreversible lung damage as a byproduct of using these devices. While the detectors are catching individuals in the act of vaping, they are also deterring this kind of activity in the future, and bringing the issue into the limelight. The district is less concerned with suspending its students, but rather protecting them from what may be a potentially lethal consequences of their actions. 

To see the full interview with Student Resource Officer Jon Gleason, watch the video below.

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