The metal detector wands recently purchased for Great Bend schools aren’t for finding weapons; they are intended to detect vaping devices, Assistant Superintendent John Popp said. The purchase was one of the first things to come out of a new Vaping Task Force.
Members of the task force represent Great Bend USD 428, Juvenile Services, the Barton County Health Department and the Great Bend Police Department. Popp gave an update on the group’s activities.
The district purchased seven wands, one for each attendance center. Employees have been trained to use them in the case of a reasonable suspicion that a student has a vaping item in his or her possession.
The Vaping Task Force has been divided into two separate groups. One group is focused on detecting vape use and deciding what the consequences should be for that type of behavior.
“Once we catch somebody vaping, what are our responses and how do we help those students?” Popp said.
That is why the detection wands were purchased. Parents were notified that the district would be using them.
“I don’t know how much they’ve used them,” Popp said. “It just helps to identify if a student has a thing on them or not.”
The district is also discussing options for vape detectors for bathrooms and other areas, especially in the secondary schools.
Commercial vape detectors work like smoke detectors to identify particles produced from vaping and e-cigarettes. They are being used in schools, hotels and workplaces and can provide instant notifications to apps and web consoles.
However, “It’s not only a secondary problem,” Popp said. “We’ve had students in the elementary schools caught with vapes.”
His is looking into how much the vape detectors would cost. “And we’re trying to develop an entire security network. I don’t want to go into too much detail on that but I will say we’re working on ways that we can make detectors partner with cameras to hone in on people who may be bringing vapes in the school system.”
Superintendent Khis Thexton added that some vapes contain THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana. The school district has obtained some test strips to determine if THC is present in any confiscated devices. The information is useful for taking action even though it isn’t official in the way a lab analysis would be.
Tobacco and marijuana are both illegal for minors.
The Education and Prevention side of the task force is more focused on stopping behavior before it happens. Popp said they want to educate parents, students and community members so people understand the real danger of vaping and the impact it has, especially on growing children.
“The adolescent body is growing a lot, so any harmful things that you take in at that point become very, very harmful long-term for those bodies,” he said.
Parents and students alike need to know that vaping is harmful, he added.
“Again, there’s a lot of people who say, ‘It’s not harmful; it’s just water vapor.’” However, typical disposable vapes may be equivalent to a pack of 20 cigarettes. They also contain harmful aerosols.
According to the American Nonsmoker’s Rights Foundation, even non-vapers can be at risk from “secondhand aerosol (incorrectly called vapor by the industry) from Electronic Smoking Devices (ESDs).” It is comparable to inhaling secondhand tobacco smoke or diesel engine smoke.
Even flavored vapes that don’t contain tobacco contain aerosol.
The foundation reports ESD aerosol is made up of a high concentration of ultrafine particles, and the particle concentration is higher than in conventional tobacco cigarette smoke. “Exposure to fine and ultrafine particles may exacerbate respiratory ailments like asthma and construct arteries which could trigger a heart attack.”
“It’s incredible how much it is NOT better for kids than smoking,” Popp concluded. “It’s not just water vapor; they’re inhaling very dangerous chemicals that they’re putting into their system.”