Central Indiana schools are installing vape detectors in bathrooms

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NOBLESVILLE — Throughout the school day at Options Charter School in Noblesville, Joe Hopper’s watch and phone receive alerts notifying him students are vaping in school restrooms.

“I would say about five times a day, our detectors go off in some form or another,” Hopper said.

Hopper is the Director of Safety for Options Charter Schools which serves students who aren’t finding success at a traditional high school.

“We deal with a lot of kids with anxiety, a lot of kids with medical issues,” Hopper said.

The Hamilton County Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs has granted $27,000 in funding for five schools to install 25 vape detectors.

Last semester, Options installed the vape detectors at the Noblesville location and this school year the detectors are getting installed at the Westfield campus.

“We realized that it was a struggle for our students. So we decided the vape detectors gave us the ability to identify who is doing it, and then have a conversation with them,” Michael Dunagan, Director of Schools, Options Charter Schools said.

Hopper says the detectors are extremely smart and notify them within 10 seconds of an incident in the restroom.

“Whether it’s a masking, whether somebody sprayed cologne or some type of chemical in there, or whether they’re in there, and it’s a nicotine vape or even a THC vape, it’ll tell us the difference,” Hopper said.

The goal, Hopper says, is not to get students in trouble.

“We don’t suspend students that get caught with vapes. We make them enter into some type of program, whether it’s online or in-person counseling,” Hopper said.

The goal is to build a relationship with students and bring parents in to help students understand vaping at school is not acceptable.

“A lot of kids feel it’s easy if you push people away that they’ll give up on you. So by using this, to reassure them that we’re not giving up on them, that we’re building that relationship, we’re gonna be here, no matter how hard you push, we’re not giving up on you know, it’s amazing to see from the time that a kid starts here with us to the time that they end with us what that difference is,” Hopper said.

In addition to Options, funding was also awarded to Sheridan, Carmel, Westfield and Noblesville schools for vape detectors.

In Carmel, the detectors are installed first in the middle school.

“The real purpose is to reduce the amount of vaping that’s coming into our schools. Our schools are a reflection of what’s going on in the community and vaping is on the rise among young people we just want to be able to assist our students to keep our schools safe and healthy and help our students stay safe and healthy,” David Woodward, Director of Student Services, Carmel Clay Schools said.

Monica Greer, the Executive Director of the Hamilton County Council on Alcohol and Drugs says if students are vaping on school property it’s gotten to the addiction phase.

“We don’t know exactly what all it’s doing…. We know it damages the lungs, we know it damages the brain, it can stunt the growth of the different receptors in the brain, and then also it affects our mood. A lot of people think that it helps with anxiety, it helps decrease anxiety, but it actually increases anxiety. So it’s just very important to get to them at the earliest age possible,” Greer said.

According to the CDC, E-cigarettes are electronic devices that heat a liquid and produce an aerosol or mix of small particles in the air. Some e-cigarettes look like regular cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Some look like USB flash drives, pens, and other everyday items.

The CDC says e-cigarettes are known by many different names. They are sometimes called “e-cigs,” “e-hookahs,” “mods,” “vape pens,” “vapes,” “tank systems,” and “electronic nicotine delivery systems.”

Hopper wants parents to be on the lookout for vapes. He says they need parents to help them put a stop to this growing problem.

“There’s lots of days we catch a kid and have a parent come in and they’re outraged that we’re calling them,” Hopper said. “We need parents to help control this at home and to stop bringing it into schools to let their kids know that it is illegal in Indiana. You cannot purchase vapes in Indiana at their age, you have to understand that we have a job to do and we want to protect the safety of your kid.”