CHATHAM, NJ - An increased concern about "vaping" in the high school and in the district overall prompted the Chatham Board of Education to adopt a stricter policy by a unanimous vote at its regular meeting on Monday night.
Board member Rich Connors, chairman of the policy and planning committee, gave an impassioned plea to Chatham parents to learn about the growing concern. Policy No. 5533, which has to do with tobacco use, was amended to include harsher penalties on vaping.
Students caught vaping in school, on school grounds or at school events will be subject to a Saturday detention. A second infraction will include detention and a request to the parents for a urine test.
"It deals with a rising concern among the students, quite frankly I feel remiss I didn't know much about until recently, called vaping," Connors said. "I think the primary use is for cigarettes. It's illegal for students to be vaping. What we're finding out now is that it's being misused. Students are putting illegal substances in it."
At the BOE meeting June 5, Lori Gironda, CHS assistant principal, reported that 10.3 percent of students had tried vaping.
Th"""We're revising the smoking policy, in particular in regard to vaping," Connors said. "We're putting some teeth into the policy. If a student is found on campus vaping, there will be a Saturday detention. The parents will be told about the use of the vaping and about the growing risk of the vaping. A second time, there will be detention and the child will be instructed through their parents to go for a urine test.at an approved facility. If they choose not to go, that will be considered a failed test.
"We are trying to express our concerns in regard to vaping and its misuse. It is a problem in this district. Parents, if you don't know about it, learn about it. This is a very, very serious issue and the district takes it very seriously. We can only do so much. Parents have to engage as well. Don't think little Johnny or little Jane isn't doing it, because they are. So please, support us and follow through with that program."
In an answer to question about the prevalence of the problem and the demographics involved, Chatham Superintendent Dr. Michael LaSusa noted that it was an across-the-board problem and pointed out that student-athletes had been caught vaping on the team bus on the way to a game.
Chatham High Principal Darren Groh thanked th board for the new policy standards in regard to vaping because he said it was a growing concern.
"I've been in the district since 2004 and one of the things I've been very proud about within our school is that we haven't had students smoking, bringing in cigarettes or other things in the building, except for a few occasions," Groh said. "One of the things that really brought to light the vaping was the number of students who brought to our attention what was going on last year. When it's reported, we're able to handle it. You don't smell it and you don't necessarily see it.
"We're also trying to catch up with technology. One of the reasons we're getting stricter with it is that it is affecting the other students in the building and that's not okay."