Vape Detectors: An Epidemic Meets Its Match

September 26, 2022

Vaping has become a modern day epidemic for high school students. This year, Worthington high schools have installed vape detectors in every bathroom. While most students view the detectors in a negative manner, they can all agree with the positive benefits the detectors bring to our school. 

Principle Pete Scully explained how the vape detectors work and the intent behind their installation.

“Last year there were some district-wide teacher concerns,” said Scully. They were mostly high school related and involved dress code, class cuts, behavior in hallway/restrooms, and cellphone use. With these concerns came the exploration of vape detectors.

“The reason for these detectors was to prevent vaping in the bathroom and prevent kids from congregating in the bathroom,” Scully said.

Not only do the detectors alert administrators when someone is vaping, but also when there is loud noise in the bathrooms. The alert from loud noise is called an “aggression notice.” Detectors also have the ability to differentiate between a nicotine vape and a THC vape, as well as sensing when students are trying to “mask” their vape. The oil in vapes breaks down into particles that alter the air, which the detectors end up sensing. 

The vape detectors have made a change in student discipline.

“Our first day of school we had 28 events,” Scully said.

However, when an administrator is notified of vaping in the bathroom, all students that were there within the time period are searched. When there are 28 events in one day, and 2-3 kids per time period, this could lead to almost 50 searches a day.

Kaitlyn Breedlove is a student that was searched. She walked into the lunchroom after using the restroom and was stopped by an administrator that told her she was in the bathroom at the time the alarm went off.

“I sat there for about 5 minutes waiting, and then they took me into the room and made me unfold my pockets out of my pants,” Breedlove stated.

This was a minor searching incident and she was not in any trouble. However, these searches can become a distraction from school if a student is searched during class time. 

The vape detectors have made a significant impact on student behavior and vaping in the bathroom. On the second day of school there were only 5 events, and then the next Friday there were only 2 events.

“Part of the push for this (detectors) were not just teachers, but our parents who were asking for help because kids did not want to use bathrooms because of the behavior in them,” Scully said

Worthington schools administration got advice from other school districts that have installed detectors.

“As long as you are responding to the incidents, behavior goes way down,” Scully said while talking about Olentangy’s experience with the detectors.

He also acknowledged the fact that this does not get rid of students vaping, but he does believe that they are not doing it in the bathrooms anymore. “That was our goal, and that goal is accomplished,” Scully states.

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