BY ALEXANDRA SANSONE
There has been no shortage of stories concerning vape and e-cigarette use circulating both in the news and in conversation, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find areas untouched by these addictive products. Vaping and e-cigarette usage is cause for concern, especially in schools.
This is why Cooper City principals decided to designate an Innovation Zone (iZone) meeting to educate parents and students on the “facts of e-cigarettes and vaping.”
The CCHS auditorium was mostly empty, save the small group of fewer than 10 parents that chose to attend and the numerous Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BSO) and Broward County Public School (BCPS) representatives that were speaking. As the meeting went on, various individuals expressed their concern with the low turnout.
“Right now, with vaping being the epidemic that it is, it’s important that parents are educated and know what the risks are,” District Prevention Coordinator Kim Young said. “Unfortunately, too many times, our parents think that there’s … not an issue with their child.”
“Unfortunately, too many times, our parents think that there’s … not an issue with their child.”
It was expressed numerous times in the meeting by various parties that perhaps the low turnout was due to parents merely believing that it would never be their child. In her presentation, Young dispelled this belief and shared that no matter how easy it is to believe that it’s “not your kid,” you may never truly know. This is a lesson she knows well, as Young recently found herself having to handle a vaping situation with the teenager living in her household.
“I said the same thing, and I’m educated on it, and I still got myself in a situation where I had a 17-year-old vaping,” Young said. “So it’s important to educate ourselves and [to] know [the signs] and [to] not assume that it’s not our kid.”
With the rise of Juuls that closely resemble USB drives and new vaping hoodies, it is easier than ever to sneak vapes and e-cigarettes both at home and in school. With this in mind, Embassy Creek Elementary Principal Robert Becker pointed out that the prevention efforts shouldn’t only be made by school staff, but that they should start at home.
“You have to be a part of your kid’s life at every turn you can; you have to be there for them,” BSO Detective Ryan Zimber said. “You are not their friend. I know a lot of parents try to be their [kid’s] friend … unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way … unfortunately, when your kid is doing something wrong, you have to let them know they are doing something wrong.”
“Be prepared for the worst, and hope for the best.”
Young, having been able to target the situation at home, was able to avoid consulting the discipline matrix, which recommends expulsion on the third offense or if the student is found with any traces of THC on their person.
Efforts are said to be in motion to make the consequences for students involve a parent or guardian much earlier than the current policy requires. The hope is that earlier parent involvement will prevent repeat offenses.
“I really like the idea of having to do our first consequence where parents have to be a part of that conversation and that education of it,” Young said. “Too many times, that second and third offense are happening because the parents are still not educated. The student might be, but that addiction to the nicotine is already there and so it’s hard to get them to stop until they get to that third consequence … expulsion.”
“Be prepared for the worst, and hope for the best,” Cooper City Commissioner and CCHS parent Lisa Mallozzi said. “You just never know.”
Photo by Anabella Garcia