ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — A school superintendent in Central Texas says teen vaping is getting out of control. He’s working with 11 other superintendents from across the country to come up with solutions.
Student leaders in the Round Rock School district are helping out. Round Rock’s Student Advisory Board is made up of 28 elected students throughout the school district.
Each year the student’s choose a topic to address. Because the vaping epidemic has made it to local schools, the student are choosing to tackle vaping this year.
Brandon Qin is a senior at Westwood High School and the president of the Student Advisory Board. He says he’s seen students vaping first-hand.
“The fact that many in the student body find it commical or hillarious,” Brandon Qin said. “To effect the learning enviornment of students in that way is distracting. It’s unfair for students who are trying to learn.”
Steve Flores is Round Rock’s Superintendent, and one of the 11 superintendents from across the nation invited to participate and eliminate vaping in America’s schools.
“It’s a national problem. It’s alarming, and it tells me that we need to take some action, we need to be proactive and we need to help kids really work through the situation,” Flores said. “So, if they are addicted that there is some type of protocol to support them.”
It’s a national problem that’s made its way to Westwood High School; Brandon Qin’s school.
In 2018, according to a the Round Rock school district’s vaping statistic report, Westwood High School had two vaping related incidents. In 2019, that number skyrocketed to 25 cases. The total number of incidents for the entire district in 2019 is 250.
“We went from this not even being an issue to all of a sudden this has become one of our chief issues as far as student safety is concerned,” Westwood High School Principal Mario Acosta said. “As a principal I was sort of not astounded but it made sense in my brain.”
The statistic made sense to Acosta because of what Westwood High is doing to fight the problem. Acosta says they’ve held public forums, brought in the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office to train teachers and he says it’s made more people aware of the problem. Now, the tiny little hidden objects in students hands are becoming seen.
“We’re seeing an increase,” Flores said. “We’re not going to be silenced to that.”
Often times, the district staff can look like the bad guys, however, so that’s why the student advocates are stepping in too.
“We’re in no way trying to ostracize or alleniate them, or portray them as the enemy,” Qin said. “We’re trying offer a unique perspective by working with students and advocating to remove the ignorance of the harmful effects of juling. ”
Flores will be at the vaping advocacy forum next week at an American Heart Association conference.