Small device makes ‘huge impact’ in fight against vaping in Tennessee school district

This article originally appeared on WSMV4. To view the original article, click here

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) – School districts across Middle Tennessee have reported a surge in vaping over the past few years, resulting in the confiscation of hundreds of vaping devices from students.

The rising numbers had Montgomery County parents like Jessica Goldberg, a mother of two girls, concerned.

“They’re great girls,” said Goldberg, “But they also experience peer pressure just like anyone else.”

Both honors students, one daughter just started middle school while the other began her first year of high school this past fall — two key transition years, according to Goldberg.

Goldberg said she knew peer pressure could start early but was thankful for the open communication she had with her girls.

“When my oldest daughter was in middle school, she would say, ‘Mom, I heard about this in school. I heard this kid is trying vaping, like, I don’t I don’t know how I feel about that,’ or, you know, ‘I don’t know what that is.’”

To combat the growing number of vaping incidents, Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools installed more than 130 HALO Smart Sensors in all eight middle schools and eight traditional high schools.

The HALO device is a multi-sensor that is capable of vape detection, smoke detection, THC detection as well as sound abnormalities. These sounds include shouting and gunfire in areas where a camera cannot be placed, according to CMCSS Chief Communications Officer Anthony Johnson. Johnson added that the district began installing the vape detectors in bathrooms in 2022, and the district is now piloting these vape sensors at two of their elementary schools.

“It’s right there, and if you look in the middle of the sensor, that’s actually a light. It will go, it’ll light up when it detects somebody’s vaping,” said SRO Tera Dillard with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department.

SRO Dillard showed WSMV4′s Holly Thompson the location of the sensors attached to the ceiling in the center of the girls’ and boys’ restrooms.

“Administrators, the SROs, they get an email notification, and they’re able to go to that bathroom location and figure out who was in the bathroom vaping,” explained Lauren Richmond, the Safety & Health Coordinator for CMCSS.

“Explain these new numbers coming in for the district. Are these vaping sensors really working?” asked Thompson.

“We’ve seen an incredible difference in the reduction of vaping in our schools,” replied Richmond. “It’s been about half from this time last year to this year.”

“We are seeing a huge impact,” added SRO Dillard.

New numbers showed the district has seen a 58% drop in the number of vaping incidents, compared to the same time frame last year. From data in the district’s student information system, last school year from August 2022 through January 2023, CMCSS had 353 incidents of students using tobacco/nicotine vapes at schools. Compared to the same time frame, Johnson said the school system reported the number of incidents dropped to 147.

It’s news that made Goldberg feel supported as a parent.

“Just gives me a sense of peace as a parent, and it lets me know that there are adults in that building who have my child’s safety as their top priority,” said Goldberg.