Don’t Be A Hick, Put Down the Nic

Closed bathrooms, suspensions, stressed hall monitors: vaping is a slippery slope for students and staff alike.  As students, we have a different perspective compared to that of the faculty and staff. We only see the aftermath, not the catching of a student, not the student’s point of view. This being said, we should always hear most, if not all sides, of the story. Mari Pratt and Bernadette Bloom are most often the first to hear of a vaping incident. Students are the ones who report these incidents.









(Bernadette Bloom and Mari Pratt)

“There are still times that vaping is reported by individuals who have entered the bathrooms. Even though we still receive reports of vaping periodically, they are inconsistent and appear less frequent than earlier in the year” said Bloom.

Either the school’s discipline is working and it’s deterring students from vaping, or kids are getting sneakier and the hall monitors just don’t hear about it. Think about it, large creaky bathroom doors act as an alarm system for these kids, it only takes seconds after hearing it to put it away and act normal. Sure the smell might tip you off, but you could chalk that up to anything. It’s such an easy thing to get away with in hindsight which makes it all the more impressive that these hall monitors manage to catch anyone at all.

“We know that vaping continues to be a health concern, especially among youth. As a school, we will continue to try and support students, provide education about the effects of substance use, and work collaboratively to develop a positive culture where all students feel safe, seen, heard, understood, and respected,” said Bloom.

Although students might not think so, the hall monitors are in fact trying to help them. They want students to be happy and healthy and unfortunately in the long run, vaping takes both of those things from you.

Vapes contain a cocktail of harmful chemicals wrapped in a fruity little bow. Some of these include ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs. Flavoring chemicals such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease. Volatile organic compounds and heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead. Delicious.

According to the nonprofit public health organization Truth Initiative, vaping with or without nicotine impacts impulse control, especially in young adults whose brains have not fully developed. Some of these risks include mood disorders and permanent damage to parts of the brain responsible for memory, emotion, and critical thinking. Nicotine can also worsen anxiety symptoms and amplify feelings of depression. Current e-cigarette users have double the odds of having a diagnosis of depression compared to those who have never vaped, according to a 2019 JAMA study of nearly 30,000 current e-cigarette users.

So you get caught, vape in hand. Now what? The Harwood Student Handbook states: ”The Principal shall work with appropriate staff members to develop and conduct an alcohol and drug abuse educational program.“ Mari Pratt described it as “Multiple meetings with drug counselors and other offenders.” Sounds a lot like AA. Students also work with the school janitors in the mornings, cleaning desks and classrooms as public service.

How effective are these rules really? Who would know better than the class that is most often blamed for these vaping incidents, the sophomores, home to what some students refer to as the “vape squad.”

“I think it’s kind of a joke, I think they could be a little nicer about it. Like when they closed all bathrooms was a little harsh. It just makes kids want to rebel more and just makes everyone frustrated,” said “D.”  Fair enough, when punishments bleed over from the individual into the student body as a whole, it frustrates everyone – especially when it involves something as important as the public restrooms. Having to walk across the entire school and upstairs to try and find a usable toilet is just not ideal. Teachers even had to leave notes on the restroom doors reminding people to be courteous, since they have to use the facilities too.

D provided said vaping is incredibly normal for his group of friends. They have become very blasé to the reality of nicotine addiction and the negative health effects associated with it. They don’t take Harwood’s discipline policy seriously either. It simply makes them resent the people who are doing their job.

Vaping is lame. But so is the vagueness of the policies in the student handbook. It should be very clearly outlined. Some people may stop just to avoid community service, but some kids are provoked by the policies into rebeling more. No system is perfect but there must be a more effective way to deal with these repeat offenders who use the punishment as fuel to the fire.