Vape Sensors Are Now In All School Bathrooms. Here's What to Know.

The administration's new vape policies are aimed at stopping vaping before it starts.

Vape Sensors Are Now In All School Bathrooms. Here's What to Know.
Photography by Kaiden Chandler

By Kaiden Chandler

Editor in Chief. Class of 2024

Speed Read: In under 2.5 minutes, everything you need to know to be informed about the anti-vape policies.

What to know: After a vape detector pilot program was introduced in November, the school has installed vape sensors in all student bathrooms. The new detector system is part of a larger anti-vaping effort by the administration.

Here’s why: Assistant principal Ms. Hardison hopes that the vape sensors will act as a deterrence tool, preventing students from using vape for nicotine products in the first place. For students who are already using the products, she says that “the goal is to be able to help students that might find themselves being addicted to either nicotine or THC products.”

Big picture: Ms. Hardison emphasized the widespread issue of nicotine and THC use among students, saying “It’s been an issue in all schools, it doesn’t seem to be going away.” Ms Hardison has attended a regional assistant principals roundtable, working with local administrators to develop policies that can effectively fight drug use in schools.

Catch up quick: The broader rollout of sensors follows a pilot program that has been ongoing since November, when MSMHS announced it would be installing vape detectors from Triton Sensors, a company that specializes in school safety systems.

Listen in: An early investigation by The Current found that MSMHS had purchased the 3D Sense Pro sensor model from Triton, which can listen for keywords associated with fights or bullying. In a statement to The Current, Garrison Parthemore, one of Triton’s co-founders, explained that the model MSMHS purchased “has the ability to detect vaping, keywords, tampering, etc.”

  • Yes, but: The administration later clarified that — though this feature is still present on all of the devices — there are no current plans to activate it. 
  • Here’s why: The school opted for the Pro model because of its tamper detection feature. As of early February, no students had been caught tampering with the sensors.

How it works: Once a sensor detects the possibility of vape use, it sends a notification to school administrators. Ms. Hardison says that, “ideally, we’re able to intervene right away." However, if administrators aren't able to respond quickly, they have the ability to check camera logs to identify which students were in the bathroom at the time of activation.

  • Ms. Hardison added that, “in all of the cases where they went off, we were able to intervene.”

After activation: Ms. Hardison explained that activation of a vape detector would not be enough to bring disciplinary action upon a student — all activations have to be backed up by stronger evidence, such as student interviews and bag searches.

Discipline: The school groups vape offenses into three categories that escalate in both seriousness and the likeliness of a severe disciplinary penalty.

  • Use: Possessing or using vape or nicotine products.
  • Sharing: Allowing others to use their vape or nicotine products.
  • Selling: Distributing vape or nicotine products to others in exchange for money.

Consistency: Ms. Hardison says that “we try to be as consistent as possible” with consequences for vaping. 

  • However, she explained that the administration has to “take in all of the other factors,” adding that “unfortunately, I can’t lay out for you what consequences are.”

“Multifaceted” approach: In addition to the school disciplinary consequences, students caught with vape products will also take part in what Ms. Hardison describes as a “multifaceted approach” to anti-vape policy.

  • Students participate in a one-on-one conversation with a representative from Groton Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention or the school resource officer from Groton City Police, providing a chance to discuss the issue and find further resources
  • An online program provides an educational look on the topic of vaping and addiction. 
  • Ms. Hardison has also emphasized the benefits of close collaboration with parents during this entire process.

Results: Ms. Hardison says that there are “no repeat offenders” caught vaping under these new policies, as of the time of this interview in February, and is optimistic about the new policies overall.

The Current