Olentangy Local Schools is looking at increased vigilance in addition to heightened consequences as a way to address vaping by students.

The district's school board will discuss the matter in its meeting Thursday, Sept. 12. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Delaware Area Career Center, 4565 Columbus Pike.

Randy Wright, chief of administrative services, said he might ask the board for approval to install vaping detectors in bathrooms at the district's four high schools.

"We are still having students doing harmful things to their bodies in our school buildings," Wright said. "Existing rules and education haven't been enough."

The district adopted stiffer penalties for students caught vaping at school for this school year, Wright said.

Students could face three days of out-of-school suspension and could opt to have that reduced to one day by agreeing to meet with a certified counselor.

That meeting, Wright said, is designed to not only provide education on the dangers of vaping but also to give students and staff an opportunity to see if there are underlying issues that are leading to the student's use of e-cigarettes.

"Through the assessment, we can maybe find other alternatives to respond to those triggers, whatever they might be," Wright said.

The policy and discussion about installing detectors is timely, given the recent Ohio Department of Health report of three instances of pulmonary illness likely attributable to vaping. The report said all three cases involve individuals from 18 to 26 years old.

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report last week citing 450 cases of pulmonary illness linked to vaping nationwide, including three deaths.

Wright said vaping is not only a health risk for users of e-cigarettes but also is a nuisance to non-users.

"We've heard, anecdotally, over the last two years or so, increased reports (of vaping) from administrators, students and parents," Wright said. "It's becoming rampant in bathrooms. We hear from students that often stalls are not available because they are occupied with students using a vaping device."

Wright mentioned Clearing the Fog, a group created last school year by four Olentangy High School students who graduated last spring in raising awareness of the issue.

"Vaping education is lagging behind other types of drug and alcohol education," Wright said, adding the district is working with the American Lung Association and OhioHealth to increase its efforts.

Wright said installing vaping detectors in every bathroom at the four high schools would cost the district more than $50,000.

He said the work could be completed as soon as the end of November, if he is able to bring a completed proposal to the board Sept. 12 and is granted board approval.

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