As cases of illnesses linked to vaping continue to rise nationwide, Loudoun County, Virginia, schools unveiled plans to combat vaping among students.
”We really want to try to get ahead of this,” said Jennifer Wall, supervisor of student assistance services for Loudoun County Public Schools.
She said the approach involves not only helping students to stop using e-cigarettes but also educating students who have not used them about the dangers they pose.
The school system said education will come in the form of presentations on substance abuse, which includes vaping, to students in sixth, eighth and 10th grades.
Also, the county’s “Partners for Safe Teen Driving,” which is mandatory for teens who want to drive, will include a section on e-cigarettes.
Wall said physical education and health teachers will bring up the topic with students as young as those in the second grade, as well.
“They’re starting to talk about healthy decision-making, the harm and risk associated with tobacco, nicotine and other substances just briefly,” she said.
It is against the rules for students to use e-cigarettes and other banned substances at school, but when students are caught doing it, Wall said, historically, a punitive approach has been used.
That approach she said has changed with an emphasis on getting students the support they need to stop.
“We see it as a disease. It’s not just a behavioral issue. There’s a reason why kids are vaping; they’re self medicating something,” Wall said.
Wall said the school system has eight staff members who specialize in helping students with substance abuse problems. Those student assistance specialists work with both students and their parents in addressing the issue.
For students caught using banned substances multiple times, they will be enrolled in the school system’s insight class, which is labeled as a substance use prevention and early intervention class.
Student assistance specialists are also charged with educating staff, parents and the community about substance abuse trends. Parents can also turn to a website set up to help them prevent their kids from ever picking up an e-cigarette.