Clarksville-Montgomery Co. Schools installing vaping sensors in school bathrooms

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CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — When it comes to cracking down on students vaping on campus, the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System isn’t blowing smoke.

“We wanted to kind of get ahead of that and decrease that in our schools,” said Lauren Richmond, Safety and Health Coordinator for CMCSS.

Rossview High, Clarksville High and West Creek High have already installed Halo sensors that can detect tobacco and THC in the air, and then notifies administrators. Kenwood High School is in the process of installing its sensors right now.

“If the student has already left the bathroom, they could go back and look on camera to see which students came out at the time the notification was received,” Richmond said.

Students caught with vape pens that contain drugs or tobacco will have cases referred to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. It will be up to them to see if there will be any criminal penalties involved.

“Obviously there will be school discipline but law enforcement will get involved. Sometimes that may even result in a citation by the school resource officer,” Richmond said.

To those who say, that’s a dramatic response, administrators contend it’s a problem that’s getting out of hand.

According to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, tobacco-related offenses are up 73% in area high schools and 48% in area middle schools in the 2020-2021 school year compared to the 2019-2020 school year.

For drug offenses, they saw a 55% increase in high schools and a more than 500% increase in middle schools, in the 2020-2021 school year compared to the 2019-2020 school year.

“We have applied for a grant to get three installed in each middle and high school throughout the district,” Richmond said.

The sensors have other uses too.

“It will also detect any keywords that are programmed into it, such as help, or if students are fighting in the bathroom. It will detect there is yelling or louder sounds,” she said.

Richmond wants to assure parents — they aren’t listening in on students in the bathroom. The software just monitors keywords.

“It will only send a notification that that word has been used in the bathroom,” she said.

She believes it’s a tool that could one day be as common as the smoke detector.

“We know that we have to do more, so this is just a preventative measure that we can set in place,” Richmond said.

According to Richmond, principals at schools where the sensors are already installed have seen a major decrease in the number of incidents, likely because students know the sensors are in place.

A BREAKDOWN BY THE NUMBERS

Tobacco in High Schools
2019/2020: 85
2020-2021: 147
73% increase

Tobacco in Middle Schools:

2019/2020: 21
2020-2021: 31
48% increase

Drugs in High Schools

2019-2020: 55
2020-2021: 85
55% increase

Drugs in Middle Schools
2019-2020: 4
2020-2021: 25
525% increase