More than 60 students within the Santa Barbara Unified School District have been suspended this school year for drug or alcohol violations – a 100 percent increase from a year ago.
According to a report presented to the school board Tuesday night, the number of students suspended so far this year represents a 107 percent increase over the same time period in the 2017-18 school year.
“This increase can be almost solely attributed to the rise in the number of students vaping THC products on campus,” the report reads.
According to the 2018-2019 California Healthy Kids Survey, five percent of eighth graders (74 students), seven percent of 10th graders (111 students) and six percent of 12th graders (89 students) had reported vaping on school campus at some point in the past month.
In 2017, a National Institutes of Health study found that in the U.S., 13 percent of eighth grade students, 24 percent of 10th graders and 28 percent of 12th graders reported vaping in the past year. Locally, the results from the SHKS survey showed that 15 percent of eighth graders, 24 percent of 10th graders, and 19 percent of 12th graders reported using electronic nicotine delivery systems, also known as ENDs.
Further, 10 percent of eight graders, 19 percent of 10th graders, and 24 percent of 12th graders reported having used an electronic device to consume THC.
On Oct. 8, the school board passed and adopted a resolution to support tobacco-free and vape-free schools. The presentation Tuesday offered the board more information and the issues that arise from vaping within the schools.
In September, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to confront the growing youth epidemic and health risks linked to vaping. The order directed the Department of Public Health to launch a $20 million statewide digital and social media campaign to educate youth, young adults and parents about the health risks of vaping nicotine and cannabis products.
The CHKS survey is completely anonymous and individual results are never reported, only aggregate scores, Dr. Frann Wageneck, assistant superintendent, told the News-Press in an email.
The survey is considered the best tool for measuring student engagement and school climate, including health, violence and other factors, Dr. Wageneck said.
During Tuesday’s presentation, Dr. Wageneck also presented the district’s response to the statistics. Some of the measures taken include: updating tobacco free signs on all district buildings to include the prohibition of ENDs; assistant principal training by local law enforcement; tactical monitoring of areas where vaping most frequently occurs; online vaping education in lieu of, or in addition to suspension; including information about vaping during the beginning of the year administrative walkthroughs; the “STOPiT” app for anonymous reporting; increased systems for monitoring breaks outside the classroom’ and a monthly discussion of best practices and trends.
The district also intends on working with the Santa Barbara County Department of Public Health to develop a local multimedia education campaign and adopt a uniform health curriculum for students grades 4 to 12 that explicitly address vaping.
The board also plans on continuing to explore vaping detection systems such as “Fly Sense,” and to create a referral process for youth nicotine cessation groups.
The school board also expressed interest on what it would look like for the district to apply to become a California Department of Education Tobacco Free Certified School District.
At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, the district will host the first in a series of forums on the dangers of vaping. All are welcome to attend the free forum, which will be held at Washington Elementary School, 290 Lighthouse Road in Santa Barbara.