SURPRISE, AZ — It's in the honor roll, choir, band, student council, and everywhere in between. The Dysart School District said no teen or particular group is immune to the vaping epidemic they are seeing in their schools.
This trend has pushed the district to take action and offer a free Vaping Informational Meeting Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Valley Vista High School Performing Arts Center, located in Surprise at 15550 N. Parkview Pl.
At the free meeting, parents can learn what to look for in their teen with symptoms, what the vaping devices look like, and how to have those uncomfortable conversations. Parents do not need to pre-register and it is open to parents across the valley.
"It blew up end of the school year last year... and then this year - it's there," Officer Chris Thomas explained. "It's pretty significant."
Officer Thomas is a School Resource Officer with the district and he has seen dozens of busts in a short period of time. That is causing major concern.
"They don't see it as being bad because it's not a cigarette," Officer Thomas said.
But, experts warn it could be very disruptive, especially to these young brains.
"We're finding kids passed out in the hallways, passed out at the bottom of steps, having psychosis where they don't know where they are, they don't know what happened, they don't know what they've ingested," Officer Thomas described. "It's definitely affecting them."
Vaping often includes a dangerous cocktail of nicotine and cannabis oils that are masked with fruity flavors. The devices are hidden, as well.
"It looks like a pen," said Officer Thomas as he held up a vaping device. "And this is the most common one that we're finding."
Karen Winterstein is the Director of Student Services and she said about 90 percent of parents whose children are caught vaping at school have no idea their child was using.
"When we show them the device their using, they're like, 'I've seen that! I had no idea it was a vape! It's on his counter, or he has it on his hand or it's in his back pocket.' So, this is really an opportunity to allow them a visual," Winterstein described. "These are what some of them look like."
"As a parent, it's hard for me to say this," Officer Thomas said. "But, with as severe as this is and how dangerous this cannabis oil is, I believe that we as parents can't wait any longer for our kids to give us a reason not to trust them."
For more information visit www.dysart.org/vaping.