AP NEWS

South Dakota school district puts vape sensors in bathrooms

September 23, 2019

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A southeastern South Dakota school district is installing vape sensors in bathrooms to combat students’ use of e-cigarettes that have been linked to hundreds of cases of lung disease nationwide.

The Dell Rapids School District is placing machines that will send silent messages to school officials when vaping chemicals are detected in middle and high school bathrooms, the Argus Leader reported. The sensors cost the district less than $5,000.

“We just want to make sure they know school is not the place to be doing this,” Superintendent Summer Schultz said.

Schultz said vaping has long been an issue. She went to legislators last year to bring awareness about the potential health risks of vaping, but walked away feeling like she was banging her head against a wall, she said.

“I said, ‘If this isn’t on your horizon, it should be,’” Schultz said. “It’s an epidemic for our kids. Kids in Dells aren’t doing any more than kids anywhere else, but it’s an epidemic, and this just seemed like the one way, or another layer, to try to mitigate the damage that it’s going to cause if we continue to let them do it.”

South Dakota has had at least six reported cases as of last week. More than 500 people have been sickened and at least eight have died of respiratory diseases linked to vaping.

The South Dakota Legislature outlawed vapor devices in public areas effective July 1.

The Dell Rapids district now has more severe consequences for vaping on campus, including in-school suspension, attending addiction treatment, and police referrals and restitution when appropriate. Students caught multiple times are expelled for habitual disobedience and must attend conflict resolution training before returning to school.

The Harrisburg School District has been working on raising awareness through public service announcements and information given to students. Meanwhile, the Sioux Falls School District banned the use of e-cigarettes in May by clarifying a policy already in place.

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Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com