While disciplinary action had been the default pathway to handle students caught vaping in Wilson County Schools, on Monday night, the school board voted to approve an alternative route to address the issue.
“One of the biggest problems we have had in our schools this year is vaping,” said WCS Director of Schools Jeff Luttrell. “It is a huge concern. One of the things we have looked at is how to handle that as best we can. I believe in discipline and holding kids accountable. I think what we have to do a better job of is an education piece. Is just handing out discipline enough, because some of the concerns I have after talking with medical professionals is what is in these vapes. The answer is … we don’t know.”
Luttrell mentioned that although he supports discipline for code-of-conduct policies, if the punishments are proving ineffective, then he asks, what’s the point?
“I’m frustrated with it,” Luttrell said. “We are taking kids out of the classroom, and I don’t think we are making headway. When we catch these kids with these products at school and we don’t know what’s in it, I want to educate them and the parents. Then, if they continue on with that, we can explore more serious discipline, but I feel like we have some young people who just don’t know the risks.”
Through a partnership with DrugFree WilCo, a county-wide non-profit dedicated to preventing drug addiction and misuse, WCS plans to offer students a way to get back into the classroom, because as Lauren Bush, the district’s deputy director of policy and student services, explained, the current code of conduct has cost students valuable instructional time.
“We have seen an uptick in vaping in our schools,” Bush said. “After pulling our discipline report, we had 1,500 days of missed instruction due to out-of-school suspensions at the high-school level this year alone for vaping products. It’s obvious that exclusionary discipline is not working for this problem.”
Bush went on to explain how that would play out in real life for students found in violation of the zero-tolerance vaping policy.
“DrugFree WilCo has been very gracious in allowing us to direct a self-paced program for vaping at the school level,” Bush said. “On the initial offense, the student will receive three days of in-school suspension and will be required to complete a self-paced online program created by the federal government and purchased by DrugFree WilCo.”
The second offense is five days of in-school suspension and completion of another program. That program would be in person. According to Bush, if a student refuses to participate, the school can use exclusionary discipline.
If a vape was passed to another person, or sold, it would fall into a different code-of-conduct policy and would be referred to as another offense.
Bush indicated that the school system has seen an increase in the use of Delta-8, a hemp derivative. If a vape pen is discovered to contain Delta-8, hemp or THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, students will be remanded differently as well.
“You can never really be sure what is in these products our students are using,” Bush said.
- After some speculation that WCS might update its drop-off and dismissal times for Mt. Juliet schools, following a recommendation from Luttrell, the school board decided against adopting any changes.
West Wilson Middle School will no longer be called the Wildcats. The school’s principal, Dr. Dante Alexander, informed the board that after input from faculty, staff and students, WWMS would like to transition to being called the Warriors. The school colors will remain the same but will feature a new logo.
The school board unanimously approved the change.