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LA GRANDE — The La Grande School District is preparing to use electronics to prevent students from vaping.
The school district has purchased sensors that will detect vaping and will be installed in restrooms at La Grande High School and La Grande Middle School. The sensors, which have been ordered from the HALO Smart Sensor company in Bay Shore, New York, can detect vaping because they monitor air quality.
When the sensors detect vaping, smartphone messages will alert administrators at the high school and middle school, said Joseph Waite, the La Grande School District’s facilities manager. Vaping is illegal in Oregon for those younger than 21 and it is prohibited on La Grande School District property.
LHS Assistant Principal Eric Freeman said the sensors will be a plus.
“We want restrooms to be safe places for kids, free from vaping or anything that makes students feel uncomfortable,” he said.
Vaping concerns him because people who do it can develop cravings for nicotine.
“It is a way to get addicted to tobacco and a gateway to bad habits or even drugs,” Freeman said.
The assistant principal said it is not known how many LHS students vape, but he believes many have been in contact with others who vape and have been offered the chance to do it.
Freeman said it is hard to detect students who vape because the devices are not large.
“Some are are as small as a pen and are easily hidden,” he said, adding the smell of vaping is hard to detect.
La Grande Middle School Principal Chris Wagner also will welcome the sensors. He believes they will help prevent students from vaping in school and from starting to vape.
“The best intervention is prevention,” he said.
Wagner said there were several times in the past school year that students were found to be vaping. He said that because vaping is addictive, he wants to make sure any students found vaping receive the help they might need to stop.
Vaping is done with electronic devices known as e-cigarettes, which simulate tobacco smoking. The electronic device consists of a power source such as a battery and a container-like cartridge. Instead of smoke the user inhales vapor. Many vaping products contain nicotine.
The new sensors are relatively small.
“They look like smoke detectors,” Waite said.
The sensors will do more than alert administrators of vaping in restrooms — they will also notify administrators of loud noises and possible fights, Waite said.
The sensors are expected to arrive early next week. Installation will start shortly after they arrive.
“Our goal is to have them in before school starts,” Waite said.
Classes start in the La Grande School District on Monday, Aug. 29.