ANDERSON COUNTY, Tenn. — The Anderson County School District is seeing just how many students are vaping at their middle and high schools.
They installed vapor sensors in the school bathrooms. The detectors can recognize smoke in the air and decipher whether that smoke contains nicotine, tobacco or THC. Once the smoke hits the sensor, it sends an email to the administration. The administration can then send faculty to check the restroom.
This is a key technology for the district. Vapes are increasingly difficult to spot. The devices are getting smaller, more compact and disguisable. For context, many are not longer than the length of a ring finger.
However, what's inside of these vapes can vary drastically. Anderson County Schools says they've confiscated vapes that contain everything from tobacco and nicotine juice to Delta 8 and Delta 9 wax.
The School Health Coordinator for Anderson County Schools, Anna Hunt, bought several educational tools for both students and faculty to learn about vaping.
"Anna got this display for us," said Paula Seller, the director of student services. "This display shows the different types of vaping devices or Juuls that students may have on them."
The seller said the large vapes are out of style. Most teens are carrying compact disposable vapes in varying colors.
"There are clothes for vaping," Seller said. "There could be a student sucking on their sweatshirt string, and that's a vape. They're vaping through the strings."
She's seen it all during the last few years, especially since the installation of the sensors.
"It is happening, we have sensors in our that we've put up in our restrooms in some middle and both of our high schools. And so anytime someone's using a vape, that sensor goes off, and it notifies us," Seller said.
The detectors go off a lot.
"They hit all day every day," Seller said.
It's a tool the district used this year in the crackdown.
They use the DARE and LEAD programs to educate about dangers on the front side. Then, they use disciplinary action on the backend.
"Anyone under the age of 21 shouldn't have a vape at all, whether it has tobacco in it or THC," Seller said. "So, if caught, it would send that student to us for a disciplinary hearing. And, if it's THC, then they're charged," Seller said.
Seller said it has gotten to that point for a few students.
"Kids are kids, they're going to try things. But we're going to try to combat all of that and make school a place for learning," Seller said.
They want to keep learning inside the classroom and keep the vapes out.