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Wasatch School District Installs Vape Detectors At Wasatch High

HEBER, Utah – Wasatch High School officials took steps to prevent vaping on campus by installing vape detectors in bathrooms and locker rooms at the school.

The vape detectors have been up since the beginning of the school year and the Wasatch School District was the first in Utah to install the detectors, according to district officials.

In the month-and-a-half since school started, the sensors have detected some 25-28 vaping incidents, resulting in about 15-20 student suspensions, according to Ryan Bishop, assistant vice principal of extra-curricular activities at Wasatch High.

Once sensors are activated, they send email notifications to school staff.

“You don’t know when it’s set off,” Bishop said. “It doesn’t emit any light of sound or anything.”

School officials said the sensors can also detect the presence of THC and be programmed to detect loud noises, which can potentially indicate acts of vandalism or bullying.

“It senses change, chemical changes in the air,” said parent Chantelle Bowthorpe.

Bowthorpe was one of several parents who approached Wasatch School District officials with concerns about students vaping at her daughter’s school.

“It’s a huge issue, it’s everywhere you look,” she said. “Kids who would never dream of smoking a cigarette or drinking alcohol were vaping because it was so socially acceptable.”

Bowthorpe said the school board was proactive about parents’ concerns and approved funding to install 19 vaping sensors on campus for the 2019-2020 school year.

“There’s no doubt that it’s working. Those numbers have slowly gone down,” Bishop said.

District officials did not provide an exact cost for the vape detectors but said they weren’t cheap. However, they said the devices were needed in fighting vaping addiction amongst teens.

“When you have kids sitting in your office telling you they’re addicted, you know it elevates the conversation fast,” Bishop said.

On Wednesday, Bishop showed some of the vaping products school authorities have confiscated from students, saying that many are packaged in a way that is appealing to teenagers.

“Lots of times in a bigger picture you feel like they’re marketing to the exact teenagers and students that we are trying to help,” Bishop said.

“Some of them are devices that look just like a USB drive, some parents don’t know that,” Bowthorpe said.

It’s something parents like Bowthorpe said is a step in the right direction to fighting vaping usage amongst teenagers.

“There’s a significant difference between last year and this year,” Bowthorpe said, “(The) kids know that the vape detectors are there and kids know that our district has a zero-tolerance policy for vaping.”

District officials said they have also ordered vape detectors for Timpanogos and Rocky Mountain middle schools, for a total of 44 detectors at all three schools.

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