Fear of harm and parental punishments related to vaping and marijuana dropped sharply among Orange County middle and high school students between 2017 and 2018, says Irina Gelman, Orange County health commissioner.
“In previous years, the decline was only slight,” she said. "But this past year the drop was 10 percent” in measures of fear, according to an Orange County youth survey.
She attributes this shift to efforts toward legalizing recreational marijuana. One result, she said, is the proliferation of vaping in schools.
“Last year there were more drugs, particularly THC, in vaping devices,” said Jayme Baxter, principal of Valley Central High School. “They’ll try anything. It’s scary because of the heroin.” She expressed surprise that athletes, too, have been caught vaping.
Valley Central preventive programs include instruction on breathing, meditation, therapeutic tapping, bike riding and “social-emotional wellness,” she said. Consequences for Juuling are suspensions for two days or longer. Alternatively, students can do Restart, a Catholic Charities rehab program at BOCES, available to any county school that pays into the alternative education program.
“You can’t send a kid to rehab if they don’t want to go, but it’s valuable if they’re ready,” Baxter said.
Andrew Marotta, Port Jervis High School principal, also encounters a wide range of students Juuling.
“We catch kids of all races, backgrounds and financial statuses,” he said. “We’ve pushed to make the campus smoke-free, but in the last two years kids have vaping devices.”
So as he found smoke detectors worked to prevent smoking, vaping detectors are part of the strategy, at $1,000 each for 10 bathrooms.
“Is it worth $10,000 to be sure we have a clean, safe school?” he asks. “We’ll do a pilot program to make sure they work.”
He also relies on hallway cameras and a message of “see something, say something,” as well as communications with parents and students. Students caught with vaping materials are required to send him an email explaining why they shouldn’t vape.
Meanwhile, all vaping materials are tested by school resource officers, said Mike Rydell, Port Jervis schools superintendent.
“Our greatest concern is that we may not know what’s in the oil kids introduce into their bloodstream,” Rydell said.
A mental health curriculum and expanded exercise programs, including before classes in elementary school, are prevention measures, as is cooperation with the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council of Orange County (ADAC).
ADAC offers schools their research based Teen Intervene program. In three sessions, it gives students strategies to cope with temptations and communicate constructively with each other and their parents, explained MaryAlice Kovatch, ADAC prevention coordinator. Tim Mains, Pine Bush school superintendent, said he envisions using it as a suspension alternative.
However, says Marotta, “More kids don’t Juul than do.”
Students recognizing that would be preventive, says Dawn Wilkin, Catholic Charities prevention services director.