Anti-vaping strategies at Abbotsford schools are not working, suggest recently released figures from the school district.
The total amount of suspensions for vaping on school grounds has increased by over 1,500 per cent in a year, according to a Dec. 3 staff report from the district.
There were 99 suspensions doled out to students for vaping in the 2018/2019 school year, compared to only six the previous year.
“School culture is impacted in a twofold manner: increasing numbers of students are being disciplined and many students are now reluctant to use the washrooms because they are not comfortable with the vaping occurring in these spaces,” the report says. “Many students choose not to leave school grounds to vape, thus creating an issue of defiance.”
Vaping in public schools has become an issue across Canada. A national survey in 2018 found that 38 per cent of high school seniors had used vaping devices in the previous 12 months, an increase of 10 per cent from 2017.
Abbotsford schools have responded to the issue by having administrators speak at this year’s September assemblies and handing out suspensions based on the student’s age, maturity, home circumstances and prior infractions.
The district has also offered counselling services for students showing signs of nicotine addiction.
The district continues to distribute Health Canada warning posters around schools and have in-class lessons on the dangers of vaping.
Administrators are also expressing concern over students masking the smell of marijuana through vape use, along with the underground manufacture and sale of vape juice among students.
“We have learned that students can (make) and are making their own vape juice and that there are also other enterprising individuals who run ‘dial-a-vape’ operations and will deliver to students,” the report states.
The reports says senior staff at the district met with the student group Impact, who informed them they were “not asking the right questions.”
Impact members told staff that: many teens don’t care what adults think and some even brag about the heightened nicotine levels set in their devices, the head-rush from vaping provides a stress relief from school, and the Health Canada posters and suspensions at schools were not working.
The district now plans to have a “youth-led response” for 2019/2020: Students who use vapes will give warning speeches at schools, a new student survey will be created, a student organizing committee will be formed and students will create an actionable plan for the year.