By Shannon Mason
A school district in Nebraska is forcing students in grades seven to 12 to submit to random nicotine testing if they want to take part in extracurricular activities such as speech competitions and the National Honors Society.
"Vaping and smoking, in our view, is reaching epidemic proportions," Fairbury Public Schools Superintendent Stephen Grizzle told the Lincoln Journal Star last week, after the school board voted in approval. "It's just a way we can deter kids from potentially being addicted to nicotine."
Underage vaping and nicotine addiction has grown to be a national concern, according the U.S. Surgeon General's office. The Centers for Disease Control estimates more than 3 million high school students use vaping products.
Bathrooms have become the place to vape without getting caught at school. In order to combat this, the Nebraska district is looking to install WiFi-enabled vape detectors, a new form of technology adopted by schools in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Arizona and Illinois. The sensors will resemble smoke detectors but are designed to detect vapor from e-cigarettes.
Fairbury Junior-Senior High School has had students participate in random drug-testing system for two years where students and their parents are required to sign a consent form agreeing to urinalysis, reported the Journal Star.
Some parents believe it should be up to the parents, not the school district, how to raise their children. "If we keep giving our rights away, soon we will have none left," wrote one commentator in a public poll on Facebook. "I for one, would like to make my own decisions. I don't need the government to make them for me."
Others do not believe that nicotine testing will be beneficial because students in the past have been able to get around drug testing, "if they are determined enough they will find a way," said another comment.
The proposed policy requires first-time offenders to complete mandatory educational seminars, and they are suspended from school activities for 10 days. The consequences escalate, with the third offense resulting in a disqualification from extracurricular activities for a year.
"We want it to be a deterrent," Grizzle told the Journal Star. "Kids are under a whole lot of pressure to experiment with drugs or nicotine."
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