The Union St. Journal: Cherry Creek High School's official news source

Union St. Journal

The Union St. Journal: Cherry Creek High School's official news source

Union St. Journal

The Union St. Journal: Cherry Creek High School's official news source

Union St. Journal

Vape Detectors Installed in Bathrooms

Peter Philpott
The administration added signs to restroom doors last year to try to curb vaping. This year, their next step is installing vape detectors. “Vaping is not appropriate to do at school and it’s illegal,” assistant principal Kevin Uhlig said.

Creek is fed up with vapers. Administrators are annoyed with fruity-smelling bathrooms, choking smoke, and widespread nicotine addiction, so, they’re doing something. Over the summer, the administration installed vape detectors in assorted bathrooms across the campus.

“I’m hoping kids will choose not to do them in our restrooms,” assistant principal Kevin Uhlig, who led the project, said. “It’s not appropriate to do at school and it’s illegal. We know there’s negative health consequences associated with using tobacco and nicotine.”

According to Uhlig, different detectors have different reactions. Some set off an alarm or a flash, some silently notify the administrators that the sensor had been tripped. “Some of them are a little bit more temperamental than others,” he said. “The company that we bought these from can actually control them remotely and tell if they’re getting too many false positives.”

Uhlig declined to share the locations or pictures of the detectors. He said they were placed in a “handful” of restrooms.

But by the end of the first quarter, they will be stationed in 20, including eight male, nine female, and three gender neutral restrooms. He pointed out the gender imbalance was purely because of the uneven number of remaining detectors, after taking into account the three gender neutral restrooms.

Some students think it’s a step in a better direction. One vaper, senior Ben Tanner*, whose name has been changed to preserve his anonymity, claimed that administrators and security guards used to check under stall doors when they suspected a student vaping in the bathroom.

“I thought peeking under stalls was super invasive,” Tanner* said. “I think having a specific smoke detector is somewhat reasonable.”

He doesn’t think it’ll solve the problem though, because student vapers can find ways not to trip the detectors. “There’s a thing called zeroing where you just hit [the vape] and then you can hold your breath and all the smoke is gone,” Tanner* said. “[Vaping] is not going to slow down, it’s probably going to pick back up once people realize the sneaky [stuff] you can pull off.”

Tanner* was also worried about false alarms, or if he’s in a bathroom with another vaper. He doesn’t want to be caught, even when he wasn’t vaping.

“I got searched because some kid was hitting his,” Tanner* said. “I don’t know who’s gonna be in there. I don’t know what they’re gonna set off and if that’s gonna bring me to office…and then I get searched, and then I have something, and then I’m in trouble.

The detectors, according to Uhlig, might have false alarms from time to time. Some students are worried that they’ll be caught in one.

“If I were to get involved in it, it’d be pretty scary because I don’t vape personally,” junior Addie McWilliams said. “I could get in a lot of trouble for that.”

But if the detector does go off, and it’s not a false alarm, and students are caught, punishment will look similar to other substance abuse consequences.

“The first violation is Saturday school detention which is 9 am to 12 noon,” Uhlig said. “The second violation will be a two day suspension. And you’ll have to work with our school health professional.”

The ‘school health professional’ is Sarah White, a mental health worker who operates at the school and educates students on tobacco and other substance violations.

“Previously, students would have had to attend sessions through an outside agency,” White said. “This raised an equity concern, as for some students, it was not as easy to get there in the evenings. Now, all students are able to choose a suspension reduction and complete the requirements on campus.”

White wants to make a change in her new position and be able to make a difference for students she works with.

“My hope is that I can be a trusted adult to students and to walk alongside them as they navigate their high school careers,” White said. “High school can be so challenging and there are many ways to cope and deal with stressors.”

Uhlig is hoping the new detectors can lead the school into a school year less ridden with vapes and addiction.

“We know there are negative health consequences associated with using tobacco and nicotine,” Uhlig said. “Ultimately, I’m hoping students don’t have to go into bathrooms and see students vaping or smoking.”

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About the Contributor
Peter Philpott
Peter Philpott, Managing Editor & Assistant News Editor
Hey there! My name's Peter, I'm a sophomore, and I'm the USJ's managing editor and assistant news editor. I believe that the first amendment is incredibly important, and as journalists we have the right and the duty to uphold it. I am very passionate for news reporting, from small, local issues, to major politics or systemic change topics. This is why I love political/breaking news reporting, and one day I hope to be an investigative journalist. I also enjoy artistic photography in my free time. I play trumpet and mellophone and I am part of Creek's Marching Band. I'm enthusiastic to inform this school on the happenings of our community, from Capitol Hill to the quad. Also, check out my column, Peanuts and Cracker Jack, where I talk about in-depth baseball!

To contact me by email, access my portfolio, or view my photography Instagram account, click the respective buttons below.

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