In 2018 and 2019, vaping was in the news almost every day. Concerned anchormen and anchorwomen vied to be embraced by the teen population, sprinkling their reports on the juuling epidemic with seemingly relatable, pop-culture terms, like “ghosting” or “pods.” Our very own county and school administration started to amp up its health-related outreach, sending parents and students emails detailing the true toxicity of vaping, along with implicit pleas to stop. Now, having soundly crossed the threshold into the new decade, it seems that the issue deescalated— vanished, even, if you will— based on how little juuling is acted upon by our staff and how infrequently it surfaces in media outlets.
But Langley students know better than to think the juuling “craze” is over, especially if they are females who frequent any bathroom in the school throughout the day. Coming in contact with the large group of girls loitering near the stalls— whose members throw annoyed glances and block the sinks—isn’t too pleasant of an experience, so It would be easy to blame the whole lot of them for continuing to juul. Instead, it’s best to examine the issue from a different standpoint: one that involves our administration and security officers’ alarming complacency in trying to stop vaping in its tracks.
“The administration doesn’t have enough evidence to say anything about it, so it’s like an unspoken agreement: ‘if you stay out of my way, I’ll stay out of yours,’” an anonymous source, part of the aforementioned group of girls, said.
Evidence, or lack thereof, seems to be the buzzword staff members use when questioned why they don’t simply “bust the bathrooms,” colloquially-speaking.
“I thought we were doing much better on the juuling issue, since we’ve only had one complaint earlier in the year from a parent,” principal Kimberly Greer said. “What would we investigate if nothing was brought to our attention? We have no way of knowing.”
The best way to know, though, would be simply to look. Instead, those who have the means and the authority to investigate the problem choose to wait until someone comes to them with a report, instead of acting on their own reasonable suspicions. But as classmates, friends, or teammates of the girls who choose to Juul in the bathroom, many students refuse to speak up. The staff, however, is at a privilege: they have no personal allegiances towards any of the girls involved. To them, it’s strictly business (not to mention a matter of responsibility for maintaining a safe school environment).
Unless someone does something, the problem will keep looming uncomfortably in the periphery, saved for another day in favor of “more important” issues. After all, staff members at Langley are now choosing to put a slightly-too-excessive emphasis on phone detention policies or food deliveries, trumping vaping on the list of priorities.
“I think phone use is a more pressing problem than vaping: there’s a lot lesser percentage of kids doing that than are screwing around on their phones,” security guard John Thomas said. “Phone detention teaches kids etiquette and how to have a little more respect.”
How can etiquette and courtesy be more important for staff than student wellness? Evidently, this seems to be the case, what with the daily morning announcements about phones (none about juuling) and continued loitering of the girls’ bathroom. Feeling the administration’s apathy towards their health, the girls who vape are only emboldened to continue.
“I don’t see any admin changes in the future, so I think this time next year, I will be doing the same [stuff] if not more. Maybe a dab pen next,” anonymous said.
This is when it gets dangerous: when students and administration enter a “don’t ask don’t tell” relationship with one another, feeding off of each other’s perceived ignorance and disregard. Staff expect maturity from students and students expect initiative from staff. Neither group fulfills the others’ expectations.
“What you guys don’t know is that I actually reached out to the school division to ask about vape detectors. At this time, FCPS is not allowing them. Last year, we had the bathroom doors locked open, so I took what was the ultimate measure I could take,” Greer said.
The Student Rights and Responsibilities handbook promises there’s more to be done, however. According to Regulation 2601.33P, when a student is found engaging in misconduct related to vaping, the administration can take actions ranging from a school resource officer referral to suspension, depending on the severity and frequency of infringement. When marijuana is involved—which is occasionally used by the bathroom loiterers— consequences can become much more severe and possibly include a call to the local police. Yet, Langley staff is not always “fluent” in the latest SR&R rules and regulations concerning vaping.
“I don’t personally know what else could be done legally, so I have to say that our school policy is at the maximum level,” Thomas said. “I don’t know what the legal ramifications are of how to address juuling.”
Staff members subscribe to their own respective philosophies on how to tackle the problem. Thomas’ largely revolves around educating the students and allowing them to make their own, informed choices.
“I like to think that I am a cop who doesn’t give you a ticket. Maybe that will resonate, maybe you’ll stop breaking the rules, or maybe you’ll turn the corner and do the same thing,” Thomas said.
“Maybe” is far too vague of a word when it comes to teens destructing their own health simply because there was nothing done to prevent it, only verbal warnings and well-wishes from staff members. Moreover, inhaling substances like nicotine or THC should not be equated with running a red light.
In terms of the future, it unfortunately seems like the administration will continue to approach bathroom vaping much in the same way as they deal with it now. In other words, bathrooms will still be crowded by girls swapping juuls and leaving the scent of weed on their clothes.
“If I start going after kids specifically, the perception’s going to be that I’m vilifying certain children, and I don’t think that’s what anybody wants to have happen. I hope students see me as a positive resource,” Greer said.
While it’s true that no one wants to play “bad cop,” sometimes a willing and conscientious group of adults simply has to, if only for the sake of the future generation.