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Teenage Vaping – Actively Addressing Issues

Teen Vaping - Orange County Schools Addressing Issues

Orange County school, medical, and community leadership collaborate on solutions 


Teenage vaping – using electronic devices that heat a liquid to produce a lung-filling aerosol or vapor – continues to be a serious challenge in area schools, especially when the vapor contains high levels of addictive nicotine or other substances. But according to Brandy Terrell, DSW, LCSW, Orange County public schools are rising to fashion new solutions in concert with health and behavioral professionals.

“There exist recognized detrimental medical aspects of vaping on a developing brain which may impact functioning and long-term health,” said Dr. Terrell. “There can be harmful exposure to excessive nicotine, heavy metals, and other medically damaging elements.” According to the CDC, millions of American teenagers indulge in harmful vaping each month.

“The majority of schools have zero tolerance policies when it comes to vaping on school grounds,” she continued. “Students violating that policy typically were suspended and received either an in-school or out-of-school suspension.”

When kids are suspended and sent home, a new set of issues can be inadvertently created. A suspended teenager can potentially continue to vape unsupervised at home while falling behind in coursework. “That scenario serves no one, least of all the student and the student’s family,” said Dr. Terrell.

In a collaborative effort “where entire county school systems are in agreement,” a new initiative to educate teenagers and parents about the dangers of vaping and how to quit is underway, she related. The initiative is anchored in the SICHC clinic and includes collaboration with IU Health Bloomington School Health Liaison Program and the Orange County Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program.

New formal school policies that result in an education-focused in-school suspension for vaping are in process. “Every school has a little different take on how this will be administered, but they chart out a new path,” Dr. Terrell explained. In the future (pending final school policy review), children found vaping on school grounds will have many more disciplinary options that incorporate full scope education and the need to set school boundaries. This may include an in-school suspension that includes focused education about the dangers of vaping.

Repeat offenders may be subjected to a medical evaluation to screen for underlying issues potentially related to vaping, including substance use disorder. This potential option works to see the vaping issue from a holistic lens.

New solutions will complement disciplinary policies and actions but will now include elements of prevention.

Orange County superintendents and principals all agreed that the prior vaping policies needed to be reviewed and updated to include an education element. “In my experience it’s unique that an entire countywide school system can recognize this important issue and take positive action,” Dr. Terrell concluded.

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