Admin Struggles To End Vaping

Teen trend brings changes to on-campus punishments


Jacob McCready

At practice before going on stage at White Oak Music Hall, 19-year-old Brandon Hockaday exhales after hitting his Juul. The legal age to purchase an e-cigarette is 18, but many underaged students try to follow the lead of the people they look up to in order to take part in the fad.

Vapes, Juuls and other e-cigarettes that hold nicotine have become more trendy among the teenage crowd. Consequently, with the increase in notoriety, students have become careless on campus with the devices. The district and other administrators are struggling with the new trend that has caught on so fast.

“It’s something we [administrators] have to deal with and y’all have to deal with too. You’re all going have to be able to make safe choices for yourselves,” Assistant Principal Eric Lammers said. “It’ll be interesting to see how the district handles this as we move forward because we are seeing more marijuana in them.”

Since last year, the tide of vaping has caught on fast, so much that it seems easier to get a hold of these gadgets. The age to own a vape or other tobacco product is 18; however, kids under that age find ways to get them without any trouble.

“It’s fairly easy to get a Juul, vape or a dab pen especially since there is no age check on eBay,” sophomore Harold Chezeor said. “At school, it’s usually students scamming other students for something worth $20 and selling it for $70.”

As more students get caught on campus, administrators have to stress about how they want to deal with this issue the right way. It may seem like a small disciplinary issue, but it’s becoming more common.

“Between two or three students a week are caught vaping, not including when it’s marijuana,” Lammers said.

The officers on campus can test if the vape has marijuana or not and the school is treating this issue more seriously.

— Assistant Principal Eric Lammers

While the school leaders have been trying to handle this issue, they’ve made consequences more strict and brought in equipment to test whether or not a student’s vapes have any substance other than tobacco or vape juice. Most students are not aware of these things.

“Last year the consequence for tobacco, when vapes weren’t a huge issue, was study hall. Now it is a couple days of ISS. If it is THC oil or other drugs, Annex is the minimum and the consequence is worse depending on the situation,” Lammers said. “The officers on campus can test if the vape has marijuana or not and the school is treating this issue more seriously.”

This problem doesn’t just affect the administration but rather the teachers and other students who don’t care for the new trend.

“It really does annoy me that other students vape at school because it smells really bad and it gets annoying to see it after seeing it so many times,” junior Aaron Skaria said.

Vaping has become such a problem at school even some teachers have just started seeing the same students in the same place, almost as if the students just don’t care about getting caught.

“I’ve caught the same three boys in the 170’s hallway bathroom multiple times,” AFJROTC instructor Sgt. Chad Johnson said.

With Oak’s new system, 57% of students caught on campus with this illegal paraphernalia test positive for tobacco/drugs. Together, they’re one of the biggest issues after tardies and cutting classes. While this is a growing problem for not just Oak, but for the entire district, the question stands whether to be more strict or to keep the same rules that stand now.

“I think that the more strict administrators become, the more students will see it as cool, and do so in secret,” senior Abel Martinez said. “Since vaping is so accessible by so many people, I believe vaping will increase with the increased restrictions on it.”

While the administration has been cracking down on the students caught by sending first-time offenders straight to Annex, some teachers feel it is a little too extreme of a punishment.

“You can’t scare kids into doing the right thing,” Sgt. Johnson said. “The administration would like to find a middle ground where punishments don’t escalate too quickly. Teachers should not have to be police officers.”

*Students names in italics were changed for anonymity.