WESTFIELD – Edison Intermediate School, Roosevelt Intermediate School and Westfield High School had a combined total of 17 incidents in four months that lead to student removal, according to the new Student Safety Data System (SSDS) report. The data was shared by Superintendent of Westfield Schools Dr. Margaret Dolan at Tuesday’s school board meeting and reflects the report period from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, 2017.

“The majority of those incidents had to do with students having e-cigarettes or utilizing e-cigarettes,” Dolan said. “As this town knows, that has become quite an issue across the state and country.”

TAPinto Westfield shared an in-depth article by Westfield High School student Greta Frontero, originally published in the WHS school newspaper Hi's Eye, on this issue in February.

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Dolan, who said she is very concerned about the e-cigarette trend, attributed the rapid increase of e-cigarette usage to effective marketing and said she sees a shift in how students perceive smoking.

“For many years, a high school student would never talk about a cigarette,” she said, adding that the idea of smoking made students cringe and that students used to think cigarettes were “gross.”

“What we have learned from the health educators is that these e-cigarettes are highly, highly addictive very quickly,” Dolan said. “So even a young student who tries it because the marketing is effective or the trend has it — it really creates a problem.”

The new SSDS reporting system replaces the Electronic Violence Vandalism Reporting System (EVVRS) and is required by the state for the reporting of specific incidents, Dolan said. The report tracks incidents; incidents leading to removal; alleged harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB); HIB trainings; and HIB programs.

While the new reporting system cannot be directly compared to the older EVVRS program, Dolan acknowledged that numbers were down from the past, but said that it is still something that the district continues to work on.

“It’s downward but I will also say that sometimes some of this is almost developmental,” Dolan said. “I’d like to say we will absolutely get rid of this and we keep working at that and we keep informing, but students sometimes make mistakes and we need to help them learn.”