Fourteen South Summit School District football players have been disciplined for using vape products on school buses while traveling to and from football games. Although the Wildcats were the 2018 state champions, it’s a little tougher to get enough players on the field as a result of the incident.
In addition to suspension from play, the members of the football team were assigned to participate in programs that address the dangers of vaping. South Summit School District Superintendent Shad Sorenson says in the past, the students might have been suspended from school for the violation. Instead, they use a restorative justice model, so the student has a chance to make things right.
“Some of the things that have happened is those students have completed a vaping awareness packet. They have attended seminars with the coach to talk to our younger students about the dangers of vaping and why doing it at a young age isn’t a wise thing to do. They’ve had opportunities to work with our school counselors and school psychologist. And again, we are in the business of educating students. We are not in the business of neglecting problems or turning a blind eye.”
When the video first came to the attention of school administrators, the principal gave students 24 hours to turn themselves in. He said he would work with them through the use of the restorative justice model sanctioned by the state, which calls for a suspension of two games. For those who did not come forward, Sorenson says they were suspended from the team for the remainder of the season. He says their district vision statement values individuals and prepares them for success, and that students and parents know the rules and expectations from the very beginning of the season. By not following through, he says they’re doing a disservice to the child.
Earlier this year, Sorenson says a student was hospitalized due to vaping. It is common for students to believe vaping isn’t dangerous or harmful but as Sorenson explains:
“The scary thing to me is that there were unidentified substances in that vape that that student used. But just that one incident helps us to see that we do not know what exactly is in those cartridges, ever.
Educating younger kids is part of their prevention program. Principals and counselors communicate with parents and students regularly to inform on the issue. Sorenson says families have a role in prevention efforts. He believes parents must take ownership.
Like I mentioned earlier, we had an assembly with the middle school and some of these student athletes and their coach went over and basically owned up to, you know what, it started here, stop it now kind of a thing. And so, we’re just taking all those precautionary measures and to me the families need to take a real ownership in this.”
Sorenson says using vape detectors is one of the precautionary measures they are considering. He points out the devices get tampered with easily. It doesn’t set off an alarm, so identifying a culprit could be difficult.
“You have to receive that text message and get down to the restroom before that student has left. And if there are multiple students in the restroom, it makes it difficult to identify who it was that set off that vape detector. We’re not discounting. We’re just looking at all of the pros and cons. As I’ve researched it, one of the things that I’m finding is that those that use vape detectors, it just pushes the problem somewhere else.”
In September, the Centers for Disease Control claimed one in four teens nationally have used vape products in the past month. Sorenson says they’ll continue to explore the best ways the school district can get information to parents and students and proactively address what has been called an epidemic of teen vaping.