Student Voices: The Vaping Epidemic

Kenzie Allen, Guest Writer

It is no secret that vaping has become an epidemic at Weatherford High School. As administrators have begun to crack down on kids for their habits, stronger punishments and regulations have been put into place to ensure the safety of Weatherford High students. Among the student population, many are not in favor of these new consequences. The frustration from the student body is understandable and easy to put into perspective. Despite the recent uproar, schools should not unreasonably condone vaping among high school students. New requirements and means of education can be put into place that helps students acquire knowledge about their offense and how precisely it is affecting their health both mentally and physically.

The recent assembly held by Weatherford High School administrators, led by principal Dr. Funk, addressed the new consequences to be enacted if a student is caught vaping or possessing vape paraphernalia. Beginning with the first offense, students are now subjected to 15 days of Disciplinary Alternative Educational Placement (DAEP) — a rather dramatic consequence in the eyes of many students, especially compared to the prior few days of In School Suspension. Unbeknownst to the Admin, the cart was placed before the horse by attempting to enforce regulations that were not yet part of the student code of conduct. This resulted in an almost “buffer” period where students caught with vape paraphernalia spent only a few days in OSS as opposed to the threatened three weeks of Bridge.

There is no doubt that possessing or using nicotine or nicotine products on a school campus, whether someone is a minor or not, is a crime. In Texas, it qualifies as a Class C Misdemeanor and is punishable by the state in addition to the school. Students who violate these rules should be held accountable for their actions. It is agreeable that the previous punishment of ISS was simply a “slap on the wrist” and many repeat offenders failed to alter their behavior. That being said, switching to a punishment of alternative schooling for vaping carries with it many possible negative consequences for a student’s academics.

Bridge Academy has proven beneficial for many students who have long-term placements. Through Life Skills classes and behavioral correction, students are able to learn more about themselves, gaining insight and introspection towards their own choices and habits. Students who attend Bridge are there for a plethora of reasons ranging from harmful threats to felony drug use or possession. Compared to these offenses, vaping seems relatively minor, and rather undeserving of such a major consequence.

What administrators need to realize is that with nicotine, unlike other drugs, users aren’t chasing a high or trying to drown their own reality. Nicotine is an addictive chemical that the body becomes very codependent on, meaning the student is often willing to risk the chance of being caught and suffer the consequences of their actions if they can simply treat their addiction. Going a full eight hours of school while suffering from nicotine withdrawals can be both physically and mentally tolling on students. While this is going on, students are fixated only on getting their next “fix” and fail to consider that if their body is responding in such a negative way, the chemical they are allowing inside their body is harmful as well.

For first time alcohol or drug offenses, Bridge allows students the opportunity for reduced placement. The criteria necessary for this reduced placement includes a program called “Alcohol-Wise.” This program is accessible via the website and requires the student to read, watch, and listen to material that teaches students, in great detail, the physical and mental effects induced by alcohol on their system. Alcohol-Wise is an interactive program as well, allowing students to input their own information and experiences with drugs and alcohol to determine the risk factor of drugs in their future.

The second part of the criteria for reduced placement involves this same program but requires the student’s parent or guardian to go through an adult rendition of the Alcohol-Wise program. This allows parents to understand precisely what their child is going through and experiencing in their dependency and addiction. The parent’s newfound insight into their child’s struggles will likely assist in the formation of a support system for students as they embark on their journey to recovery from addiction.

Rather than placing students who vape on school grounds in DAEP, administrators should instead give students the opportunity for a program similar to the Alcohol-Wise program. If a similar program existed, but with information pertaining to vaping, nicotine, tobacco, etc., students would be more motivated to change their behavior. If parents had to do a similar program, that would enhance this motivation even further, resulting in a much more identifiable decline in nicotine reliance among students.
By providing students the opportunity to learn about themselves and the products they are allowing into their bodies, schools are likely to see an increase in the desire to put down the vapes and e-cigarettes in students. Rather than punishing students and causing their academics to suffer, Weatherford ISD needs to consider creating a learning environment for their students in regards to these issues. Nicotine dependency in the form of vaping is an addiction and should be treated as such.