LITCHFIELD — Vaping monitors at a regional high school are helping administrators recognize students who are nicotine dependent, with the goal of helping the teens break the habit.
“It’s going really well,” Wamogo Regional High School Principal Sabine Loveland said about the new monitor system. Twelve were installed in February in student restrooms and locker rooms.
As one of the first schools in the state to use the monitors, Loveland said a number of educators are asking the district for information. “We’re getting calls from around the state and one from Phoenix,” he said Wednesday.
While it’s too early to tell whether the presence of monitors had reduced the amount of vaping at school, Loveland said they plan to look at the data over a number of months to determine whether there has been a positive outcome.
If a student is caught vaping, they have the option of getting in-school suspension or attending a “Healthy Habits” group offered by Greenwoods Counseling Referrals Inc. of Litchfield.
“It’s designed as an alternative to punishment,” said John Simoncelli, executive director of Greenwoods.
“If they’re getting caught a lot, there is probably something else going on. We help them learn how to cope in more healthy ways,” he said.
Students who vape may have a “feeling of boredom and anxiety. We take a moment to look at the situational response” to those feelings, said Liz Griswold, program manager for Greenwoods. She is a licensed clinical social worker who runs the student groups.
The groups meet two times a week for two-and-a-half weeks. Griswold has 15 students in a current group, and a second group with seven studentswill begin next week, she said.
“The word is spreading. Students are asking to join,” Simoncelli said. The group meetings are free.
“Parents need to educate themselves,” he said. “Know what vaping looks like. Help the child avoid dangerous situations.”
Administrators also are educating themselves about how to respond when the monitoring system detects the chemical signature of vaping .
The alerts are sent by text message or email to administrators, Loveland said. They wait for the student to come out of the restroom. “We don’t violates students’ rights.”
“We ask them if they’ve been vaping. Sometime they’re open and honest,” Loveland said. If the student denies their actions, an administrator asks the student to empty their pockets.
“They’re getting better at hiding them in the restroom,” he noted.
In the last two months or so, “there has been a large number” of students caught vaping, Loveland said. “It’s in the double digits.”
“Vaping is being used in alarming numbers,” he added. “It doesn’t discriminate” between males or females, and “it’s all inclusive at who’s being targeted,” Loveland said.
“I’m glad we’re doing this, we’re trying really hard.” he added.