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Student Vaping: Nashua schools report problems

NASHUA — During the spring, nearly half of the students in Nashua High School North and South health classes reported they had tried vaping, according to an Academic Health Class Survey conducted by Nashua Prevention Coalition. Also found in the survey was that 81.5% of students reported seeing people vape in the school bathrooms.

Because school is back in the swing of things, officials are focusing on the harms of vaping.

Recently, Secondary Discipline Data for the 2018-19 school year was presented to Nashua Board of Education’s Policy Committee.

In the data provided by Nashua School District Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Donna Fitzpatrick, vaping is defined as “the action or practice of inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device. Vapes, such as a Juul, is a battery-operated device that heats up and vaporizes a liquid or solid. The electronic cigarette contains a small reservoir of liquid nicotine solution that is vaporized to form an aerosol mist, which is inhaled by the user.”

According to the data on vaping incidents provided by Fitzpatrick, during the 2018-19 school year:

• Nashua High School North had 90 incidents involving 78 students

• Nashua High School South had 93 incidents involving 81 students

• Elm Street Middle School had 19 incidents involving 16 students

• Fairgrounds Middle School had 33 incidents involving 15 students

• Pennichuck Middle School had 21 incidents involving 19 students

The consequences associated with vaping incidents include an out-of-school suspension. According to the data provided by Fitzpatrick, at the two high schools, multiple incidents with the same student may result in a ticket or summons issued by the school resource officer. This will technically show up as an arrest, but handcuffs will not be used.

School officials tried to address the issue of vape usage in several different ways, which includes making vaping and its impact part of health curriculum at the three middle schools and two high schools.

Athletes are also being educated on vaping and the consequences for student athletes when caught vaping.

At the three middle schools and two high schools, students engage in counseling on the topic, according to the data.

Back in April, representatives from Nashua Prevention Coalition gave a presentation on vaping to the Board of Education.

Project Director Janet Valuk brought with her a bag full of 65 various devices and 11 containers of liquid that had been confiscated between both high schools since September. She also showed board members what Juul pods look like and how easily they can be hidden.

In efforts to combat the use of electronic cigarettes among teens, she and Project Coordinator Kameo Chasse have been going to health classes to speak with students about the dangers of vaping.

During the April meeting, Albee Budnitz, chair of Nashua Prevention Coalition, shared the myth that Juul pods don’t have nicotine in them, when in fact, 99% have at least some nicotine in them. He also shared that in the 1990s, it was found that nicotine was a gateway drug to opioids and alcohol.

Chasse said education is crucial and that the younger they can start educating, the better. Valuk said, “This knows no gender barrier, no social barrier, no ethnic barrier. It’s all across the student body of kids who are using these devices.”

The Secondary Discipline Data provided to the Board of Education’s Policy Committee states the Board of Education might consider revising the use of electronic devices to fall into a Class II offense, which is an act that is considered a significant violation of student behavior standards and would require a building administrator to be involved disciplinary action.

Currently vaping is listed as a Class III offense, defined as an offense that “usually occur(s) in the classroom or other less structured settings under the teacher’s supervision. Occasionally, the teacher will have to call on other people for assistance, but the responses at this level usually do not require the intervention of a building administrator.”

Grace Pecci may be reached at 594-1243, or at gpecci@nashuatelegraph.com.