The Ligonier Valley School District will host a vaping education night for parents as the district tries to curb the use of the devices on school grounds.
The event will be held 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 21, at the high school.
Ligonier Valley High School Assistant Principal Brett Marabito said the event will help parents better understand vaping’s effects and how students are getting their hands on the products.
“(Parents) don’t really know what to be looking for, they don’t know how to stop it,” Marabito told the board of directors at its March meeting. “It’s something that is almost brand new.”
Vaping allows users to inhale nicotine and other substances like THC, the cannabinoid found in marijuana, through water vapors. The products began seeing widespread sales in the United States around 2007.
In 2018, then-U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams declared vaping to be an epidemic among teenagers.
A 2022 joint survey by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than 1 in 4 high school and middle school students use e-cigarettes.
Director Cindy Brown said she asked that the board be updated on the use of vaping products by learners after hearing concerns from parents of their increased use.
In the Ligonier Valley School District, vaping products have become increasingly popular with high school and even middle school students.
This school year, 19 high school students have been caught using or possessing vaping products, according to Marabito. Three of those students are repeat offenders.
Data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education shows the Ligonier Valley High School reported 27 infractions for vaping during the 2021-22 school year. The 2020-21 had just one while most classes were online. The school year prior, there were 13 infractions.
Students caught with vaping products will receive a three-day out-of-school suspension. They can also be fined by the magistrate judge. But Marabito said the district has worked with the magistrate’s office to have students participate in a Smokeless Saturday course through Excela Health.
Repeat offenders will receive another three-day suspension along with a fine, Marabito said.
At the middle school, five students have been disciplined for vaping this year. Last year, the middle school had six cases of students using vape products, according to state data.
On occasion, some students have been caught using vapes with THC in them, Marabito said.
Director Irma Hutchinson asked Marabito how students are getting their hands on the vaping products, reiterating a concern from some parents who are hearing the products are being given out for free. Marabito dismissed that claim.
“I can tell you that they may be sharing devices but as far as anybody handing them out here, that definitely does not happen, I guarantee you that,” Marabito said.
Donald Gilbert, another LVSD director, pushed back on Marabito’s assessment that vaping devices are not being handed out for free.
“Having an eighth-grader up at the middle school, I know they are,” he said. “She tells me but she won’t tell me who.”
School officials have to rely on anonymous reports or have reasonable suspicion a student has a vaping device in order to search a student, Superintendent Tim Kantor said.
“We don’t have the authority to just randomly search people,” Kantor said. “There has to be a reason for it and there has to be an expectation that you’re probably going to find something.”
Hutchinson thanked Marabito and the administration for putting the educational session together for parents to better understand the issue.
“It’s important for parents to understand what kids do to hide where it’s coming from,” Hutchinson said.
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