Subscriber sign in

As student vaping reaches ‘epidemic’ proportions, Shawnee Mission considers policy to encourage cessation programs

Jay Senter - August 14, 2019 8:06 am
Photo credit Vaping360. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Teachers and administrators have seen a sharp increase in the number of students using e-cigarettes and vaping devices in recent years. And on Monday the Shawnee Mission Board of Education began consideration of the first of what could be a series of policy changes designed to address the issue.

Shawnee Mission is not at all alone in seeing extensive use of vaping devices among students, particularly those in middle and high school. A nationwide spike in use of the nicotine delivery systems last year has prompted concerns from federal researchers.

At the heart of the problem, say district officials, is the effectiveness of vaping devices in delivering nicotine, resulting in frequent addiction among teens. Shelby Rebeck, the district’s Director of Health Services, said student use of vaping devices had been on health officials’ radars for several years. But last year it reached a new level.

“I would say that the year before that, we were fairly oblivious to the magnitude of the problem,” Rebeck said. “As of last year, I started calling it an epidemic.”

The devices are easy for students to obtain, and because of the amount of nicotine they deliver in a single hit, they frequently lead to quick addiction. Students get hooked and find they can’t stop even when they want to.

“We have had parents and kids coming forward and saying, ‘We want to figure out a way for the student to quit.’ But they literally cannot,” Rebeck said.

She recalled an incident with one Shawnee Mission student who was caught vaping on school property.

“She was begging to be able to vape before her parents got to the school because she knew she was going to have the device taken away,” Rebeck said. “She said she wanted to be able to finish taking her hit because her body was so addicted to it and she knew she wasn’t going to have access to it soon.”

Looking at vaping as a problem of addiction to be treated as opposed to simply a disciplinary issue is at the root of the policy change that the board began considering Monday. The group held a first reading of an update to the district policy on tobacco and nicotine delivery devices that more clearly defines the steps administrators can take when students are caught with devices on school grounds.

The existing policy states that “Administrators may report students who are in violation of this policy to law enforcement, as appropriate.”

Updated language under consideration provides a more comprehensive list of possible consequences — including students being ordered to participate in tobacco education or cessation programs. Rebeck, who sits on a state department of education task force looking at policy relating to the issue, said that the language being considered by Shawnee Mission largely mirrors the kinds of recommendations people can expect to see from the state.

“We want to start looking at this primarily as an addiction problem,” she said. “Which means having cessation programs as part of the options. It means looking at in-school suspensions instead of out-of-school suspensions.”

One member of the board said she was hoping to see further discussion of the types of disciplinary action that would be recommended for students caught using devices on school grounds because the problem was so widespread that oftentimes teachers and administrators don’t know where to start.

“This is a huge problem,” said SM Northwest representative Patty Mach. “The students are doing it in the classroom, et cetera, and it’s so pervasive that there’s not a lot of discipline being brought about for this.”

Community Calendar

Sat 24

Lenexa Farmers Market

August 24 @ 8:00 am - 12:00 pm
Sat 24

Tiny Tot Triathlon

August 24 @ 9:30 am - 11:00 am
Mon 26

Power’d Up for 2020

August 26 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Mon 26

Power’d Up for 2020

August 26 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Tue 27

Lenexa Farmers Market

August 27 @ 9:00 am - 1:00 pm

Briefly Noted: Kansas, Missouri governors ink agreement ending economic ‘Border War’

Kansas, Missouri governors ink agreement ending economic ‘Border War’ Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly and Missouri Gov. Mike Parsons on Tuesday signed a regional collaboration

Lenexa middle schooler Sophia Chapman runs Kansas City Slime Company

Lenexa middle schooler Sophia Chapman has turned her slime-making hobby into a growing business that demands scientific knowledge, mathematics skills and good business sense

Fairway passes anti-discrimination resolution, agrees to explore adopting non-discrimination ordinance

The city of Fairway has decided to explore the possibility of adopting a nondiscrimination ordinance that would provide legal protections for individuals in the

Sidewalk closed on students’ walking route to Trailridge Middle School expected to reopen in 2-3 weeks

The new school year starts this week in Shawnee Mission, and blocked sidewalks on 75th Street/Blackfish Parkway in Shawnee are forcing some students to

Following burglary of unlocked car, Roeland Park police chief issues reminder to secure valuables

A video captured by a doorbell security camera shows a burglar entering an unlocked vehicle in a driveway in Roeland Park last week. Police

Sponsored Post

Your Mortgage: Third time’s the charm

By Charity Ohlund As the Chiefs’ third season with Patrick Mahomes’s right arm (and left arm for that matter) is about to kick off,

With unanimous council vote, Leawood becomes largest JoCo city to adopt non-discrimination ordinance

Leawood on Monday became the largest city in Johnson County thus far to adopt a non-discrimination ordinance that provides legal protections for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Briefly Noted: LANE4 breaks ground on Novel Place senior living facility in Overland Park

LANE4 breaks ground on two KC metro senior living communities. LANE4 Property Group began construction on an independent senior living development, Novel Place, at

Lamar Avenue

Mission planning to add bike lanes on Lamar through federal transportation program

The city of Mission is planning to add bike lanes and shared-lane marking for cyclists on Lamar Avenue next summer. The bike lanes and

For Eagle Scout project, SM West student creates respite space at Westridge Middle School

When Shawnee Mission West student Andrew Schnake was still in middle school, he went through difficult times of stress and anxiety — times when

Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken debuts at Village Shops in Prairie Village

The first Rise restaurant location west of the Mississippi opened in Prairie Village Saturday — and judging by the lines out the door it drew

Sponsored Post

Updates from Johnson County Community College: Light Up the Lawn summer concert series kicks off

What better way to spend a summer night than under the stars with family, friends and good music at Johnson County Community College. Our

Lenexa council will discuss legal issues related to enforcement of non-discrimination ordinances

The Lenexa city council is planning to go behind closed doors this week to discuss legal issues related to enforcement of the kind of

At panel on healthcare policy, Kansas health system execs, advocates detail benefits of Medicaid expansion

Expanding Medicaid in the state would provide around 135,000 Kansans with access to coverage and help ease the burden on expensive emergency care services,

Briefly Noted: 13-year-old from Roeland Park charged with 2nd degree murder in Olathe teen death

Roeland Park 13-year-old charged with 2nd degree murder. A Roeland Park 13-year-old juvenile has been charged with second-degree murder in Johnson County District Court