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Nov 8, 2017 1:35 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Suspensions And At Least One Hospitalization Precede Crack Down On Vape Use At Westhampton Beach High School

Westhampton Beach Junior Johnny Giraldo. KATE RIGA
Nov 8, 2017 1:35 PM

After multiple suspensions and at least one hospitalization, Westhampton Beach High School officials are cracking down on e-cigarettes and vaporizers.

The small, odorless devices—readily available at many vape stores—can be filled with nicotine or THC oil, a super-concentrated dose of the primary ingredient in marijuana.

E-cigarettes pose a double threat, as they are difficult to detect and come with a bounty of potential health risks, many of which young users are unaware.

“It’s a big problem in my school,” said Johnny Giraldo, a junior at Westhampton Beach High School, after classes ended on Monday afternoon. “A few weeks ago, someone had a wax pen with the THC extract, and they took a bit of that, and then an e-cigarette with nicotine, and they got nicotine poisoning and started having seizures in class and felt like throwing up.

“My brother was in a class and witnessed it,” he continued. “They had to call the ambulance.”

Christopher Herr, principal of Westhampton Beach High School, would not confirm the incident described by the student, offering only that school officials do not hesitate in contacting first responders in medical emergencies. The condition of the student who reportedly suffered a seizure also is unknown.

On Wednesday, Westhampton Beach Village Police Chief Trevor Gonce said his department responded to a “medical call” at the high school on October 20 regarding “a youth with an altered mental status.” He said the student was transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead. “After an investigation there are no pending drug charges at this time,” Chief Gonce wrote in an email.

At a Board of Education meeting four days prior, several concerned parents of high school students—including Ruth Moloney of East Quogue, and Debra Hulse and Mariann Cassara, both of Westhampton Beach—demanded to know what district officials were doing in response to an increase in drug and vaping use that, they said, resulted in the hospitalization of a student.

“I am here because I want assurances that there are measures being put in place to prevent a recurrence of a recent event where a student was taken to the emergency room after using a vaping device at school,” Ms. Moloney said at the meeting.

An email to Chief Gonce inquiring if a second high school student had been hospitalized prior to the incident on October 20 was not immediately returned.

Westhampton War Memorial Ambulance Chief Albert Tudisco did not return calls this week.

After suspending several students after they were caught in school with various devices before last month’s incident, Dr. Herr said he has been trying to educate parents about the health risks associated with vaping and e-cigarettes in particular. In a letter sent to parents and dated September 26, the superintendent underscored the potential repercussions—both bodily and disciplinary—of using the smoking devices on school grounds.

In the letter, Dr. Herr emphasized the unregulated nature of e-cigarettes by listing possible ingredients, including diacetyl—a chemical linked to lung disease—and metals like tin and lead. He added that it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to use vaporizers, and that smoking or vaping on school grounds is a violation of the school’s code of conduct.

In another preventative measure, he has also assigned security guards to monitor the high school bathrooms, hotbeds for smoking and vaping during the school day. All but the main bathrooms along the center staircase have been locked down, and a teacher or security guard now stands outside the door of the active restrooms ensuring that students sign in and out.

“As soon as we spoke at PE classes, got the letter to parents out, started suspending students—we saw an immediate decrease in the number of students getting caught with it,” Dr. Herr said in a recent interview.

He also reported that fewer than 10 students have received out-of-school suspensions thus far this school year due to vaping. “We haven’t suspended a kid in a few weeks now,” he said. “The things we’re putting in are working.”

Kym Laube, executive director of Human Understanding and Growth Services, a drug prevention and awareness group in Westhampton Beach, says that this recent trend threatens the development of teenagers. “During adolescence is when brains grow the most, so any time we put substances in, we change our brain chemistry,” she said in a recent interview. “Kids continue to seek outside substances to feel good instead of natural highs.”

“In some cases, kids can vape the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes,” she added.

Naomi Hogarty, president of the Westhampton Beach High School Parent Teacher Organization, stresses the need to raise awareness about drugs and those items that can potentially lead students to experimenting with them.

“It’s something that parents need to be aware of—with the opioid addiction, it all starts somewhere,” she said. “Bad things happen to good kids, and good kids make dumb choices.”

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If someone is using an e pen in a way it's not intended don't blame the e cigarette.
By chief1 (2533), southampton on Nov 9, 17 6:05 PM
What does this mean? That they shouldn't be banned from school grounds?
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (4157), HAMPTON BAYS on Nov 14, 17 3:40 PM
A call to the Westhampton Ambulance Chief Al Tudisco went unanswered because he has been chief there for 4 years. This paper is absolutely horrible!!!
By yanks27titles (14), eastport on Nov 14, 17 3:30 PM
A call to the Westhampton Ambulance Chief Al Tudisco went unanswered because he hasn't been chief there for 4 years. This paper is absolutely horrible!!!
By yanks27titles (14), eastport on Nov 14, 17 3:34 PM