HAVE YOU WITNESSED THE USE OF A VAPING device IN SCHOOL?
Junior 1: "In my speech class last year, there were two students who vaped on at least three occasions in class. One student talked about struggling with nicotine addiction from both smoking and vaping. I have never been caught with a vaping or e-cigarette product."
Junior 2: "I have witnessed people vaping in the school setting before in a bathroom stall but I don’t notice it very often."
Freshman: "Yes, it actually happens more than you think. People will vape in bathrooms, cars, and the really wild ones will vape in class."
Eighth-grader: "Yes, I have seen others vape in the bathroom. That’s where everyone does it."
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CAUGHT WITH THE USE OF AN E-CIGARETTE OR VAPING PRODUCT OF ANY KIND IN THE SCHOOL BUILDING?
Freshman: "Yes, vaping nicotine. They didn’t see me but they questioned me about it. I confessed and I got suspended for one day."
HAS YOUR SCHOOL BUILDING PROVIDED ADDITIONAL INFORMATION TO YOU OR YOUR FAMILY ABOUT THE IMPACTS AND RISKS OF E-CIGARETTES?
Junior 1: "I don’t recall any information being shared, though Mr. Maxwell (David Maxwell, principal at Valley High School) may have talked about it in our class meetings at the beginning of the year."
Junior 2: "The school has provided information about the risks and impacts of vaping or using an e-cigarette by having flyers posted by the bathrooms or around the school. My family or I haven’t gotten any additional information about the risks by the school."
Freshman: "Yes. There’s stuff on wdmcs.org and we had an assembly."
Eighth-grader: "I’m not sure, maybe? “We have signs in our hallways."
WDMCS PARENTS: ‘IT ISN’T A CRISIS SOMEWHERE ELSE. IT’S A CRISIS HERE’
WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT E-CIGARETTES OR OTHER VAPING PRODUCTS?
Parent 1: "I know the popular company is Juul and the devices are designed to emulate tech products that youth will gravitate to naturally. They also have vape flavors that cater to young adults. Health risks are unknown, but many cases of kids having lungs of a 60-year-old due to their vaping habits. I also believe the nicotine used can often have higher levels than that of a traditional cigarette."
Parent 2: "My knowledge of vaping products and e-cigarettes is limited to information available via news media, conversations with my student’s doctor, and online. I have little knowledge of the “chemistry” of vaping products, and my knowledge on the health risks and impacts is from news media, and via discussion with my child’s doctor. Initially, teens and students have a belief that this is a ‘safer’ form of smoking."
Parent 3: "I have learned a lot more in the past year, both as a parent of teens and because of the heightened national news on the subject. I think at first I didn’t think vaping was as serious a health risk as it is and I realize I am not alone in this misconception. Both adults and teens underestimated its addictive nature and serious health implications. I’m glad more attention is being given to this in our district and on the national scale."
Parent 4: "I’ve heard of some of the different brands/types, like Juul, but not fully aware of the differences of the different brands. I’m aware of being able to get them in different flavors, and that these devices can be more addictive than regular cigarettes. I’m not sure the difference in nicotine content between regular cigarettes and cigarettes. I am hearing more and more about people dying from extensive vaping."
HAVE YOU EVER TALKED WITH YOUR STUDENT ABOUT THE USE OF E-CIGARETTES AND OTHER VAPING DEVICES?
Parent 1: "Yes, our church asked each of the youth instructors at PowerLife to inquire about it. In my class of 12 eighth-grade boys, only two hadn’t tried a Juul, and one said he was addicted. They are easy to hide and use at school."
Parent 2: "Having a teen that has vaped (and continues to do so), I have had a number of conversations about the difference between smoking and vaping, the known risks of vaping, as well as the addiction associated with nicotine. These conversations were in conjunction with three separate visits with her pediatrician to allow my student an opportunity to ask questions and discover the medical risks and any cessation options available to her."
Parent 3: "I’ve had conversations with most of my kids. My oldest was not exposed to it while in school, but my younger ones talk about how prevalent it is from junior high on up. That’s scary because it’s not like teachers can smell or see the smoke like a typical cigarette.
While I would love to say my teenagers listen to all my ‘wisdom’ and follow my advice, I believe it won’t be my words alone that keep my kids from choosing to vape.
Instead, they are influenced when they hear their peers share they are choosing not to vape, when they watch YouTube videos from young adults who’ve experienced a health crisis, or when they see an Instagram post from a celebrity talking about the dangers of vaping."
Parent 4: "Yes, we’ve talked to both girls about vaping. We’ve shared that vaping is as addictive as cigarettes, if not more so. We also understand that they are at the age where they will want to try different things. That is normal to want to do, but they need to be aware of the side effects of vaping. Both girls play sports, so we also discussed the consequences of getting caught vaping at school and impact on playing time for their sport."
HAS YOUR STUDENT’S SCHOOL BUILDING PROVIDED ADDITIONAL INFORMATION TO YOUR FAMILY ABOUT THE IMPACTS AND RISKS OF E-CIGARETTES?
Parent 1: "I believe there is a pretty strong knowledge from kids that vaping is not good for you. If the school did anything, I would want it directed to the kids, not to parents. Kids need to see real stories of kids their age who have ran into health issues as a result of trying to be cool."
Parent 2: "I have received both reading material as well as opportunities for face-to-face learning opportunities from WDMCS and WDMCS Community Education communications. It’s important for parents and community members to understand the difference between the behavior to initially start smoking or vaping, and the continued usage of nicotine products. Although the initial stages of using these products is behavioral and considered ‘bad choices,’ on-going usage should be treated as an addiction, and as such there needs to be a conscious choice by the student comply with cessation recommendations from their doctor, counselor, or parent."
Parent 3: "There’s been communication from the district. Stories like this should hopefully help inform parents and remind them vaping isn’t a crisis somewhere else. It’s a crisis here. However, I really want them to focus on educating students and finding ways that will make students really listen. It shouldn’t take a teen close to them getting sick from vaping to change behavior but kids think they are invincible or it could never happen to them."
Parent 4: "I don’t recollect seeing any communication on the impacts/risks of e-cigarettes. I think I saw a meeting or class offered by WDMCS that we could attend as parents to learn."
Source: American Lung Association
YJI: ‘WE’RE TRYING TO MAKE THEM INFORMED YOUNG PEOPLE’ WHEN IT COMES TO STUDENTS VAPING
From left: LeMar Yeager, Ashley Swinton, Claudia Henning, and Jennifer Hahn.
WHAT IS YJI AND RESTORATIVE JUSTICE?
Hahn: "YJI is an organic program. It’s been in existence for 20 years. We look at crime and we have the offenders meet the victims using a method called restorative justice. Restorative justice looks at who was harmed, what are the obligations of the harms, and how can we put things as right as possible? A lot of times what happens is through that process there can be healing with the community, so it also seeks to engage the community. We would bring together the victim, the offender, and the community to talk about the incident."
HOW DOES YJI FIRST GET CONNECTED WITH WDMCS?
Swinton: "The school resource officers (SROs) refer the offending cases to us, but the schools or family members themselves can call us and ask for help. Any West Des Moines Community Schools student is eligible for our services. We do have calls from the counselors and administrators who know the work we do, and then we would meet the family to determine if they are a good fit. Not everyone we meet works with us, but the majority of them do."
WHAT OPPORTUNITIES IS YJI UTILIZING TO RAISE AWARENESS ABOUT VAPING?
Yeager: "I think one of the things that we identified that this was becoming a huge issue two years ago, and what we decided to do as a program was to develop an alcohol and drug awareness class to address the big issue of drugs in our community, the impact of drugs on the adolescent brain, and vaping. We’ve tried to bring young people together where we’re having a conversation about it—we’re not pointing fingers at them or telling them that they’re bad for whatever it is that they’re doing—we’re trying to make them informed young people and give them the facts."
It’s their world. They are the ones who are living in it, seeing it every day, experimenting and seeing their friends experiment with all of the different things that are out there.
Yeager (continued): "So they can do as much teaching as we can. What we try to do is give them the facts, and then hopefully they can make better informed choices to save their life or somebody else’s life."
DO PARENTS IN OUR AREA TRULY BELIEVE THAT VAPING HAS BECOME AN EPIDEMIC?
Yeager: "Most parents that we talk to … are really, really frightened for their young people, particularly that they don’t even know if they are using it. Then if they are using it, what are they using? How often are they using? What are the repercussions? Parents want to be engaged in these conversations, but they don’t know that these conversations are happening."
Hahn: "There’s a little bit of fear. You learn more about what your kid could be getting into. A lot of these parents, it’s just a nicotine vape pen. But when we start talking to them and sharing information, they don’t realize that it could be a THC vape, or it could be some other product that contains toxins, poisons, and pesticides. Some of it is out of fear of what they are going to learn."
Yeager: "It also speaks to the amount of nicotine that’s being ingested by some of these devices versus people having a cigarette. A lot of these kids are handling the equivalence of three packs of cigarettes a day. You’re pretty much going to get hooked very rapidly if you’re taking in that much nicotine in that period of time. By the time parents get that information that we’re trying to give to them, it’s obsolete."
Yeager (continued): "… The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is putting out warnings, this is what’s happening, all these illnesses across the country—it’s just like a flu epidemic. The CDC has put out all this information about this particular epidemic: level of risks, young people experiencing respiratory issues, people who are dying nationwide from vaping, but you don’t hear anything about it. … I think there are needs in our community that we barely know anything about. I think it’s probably easy for some people to be out-of-sight, out-of-mind about it, but clearly this is a growing community and there are people who need our help. There are a lot of people out there who just aren’t getting their needs met."
WANT TO SHARE YOUR STORY WITH WDMCS?
Please email School/Community Relations at email@example.com.
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