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CLEAR THE FOG: Vape detectors going into Charlotte County school bathrooms

Over 215 vape detectors will be installed in school bathrooms countywide before the 2024-2025 school year.
Posted at 8:02 PM, Apr 22, 2024

CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. — Vape detecting sensors will be installed in school bathrooms in Charlotte County prior to the start of the 2024-2025 school year.

According to Jack Ham, Director of School Support for Charlotte County Public Schools, vape detectors were installed in bathrooms at Charlotte High School, Port Charlotte Middle School and L.A. Ainger Middle School in October as a part of a pilot program after he says vaping incidents increased during the 2022-2023 school year.

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A vape detector installed in a Charlotte County Public School bathroom.

“The numbers spoke loud and clear that we have something going on that we need to address,” said Ham. “Our numbers last year were close to 500 where we had students vaping in our bathrooms. So, that’s 500 incidents that disrupted school safety and learning. It's something we wanted to take on and take very seriously.”

The detectors sense nicotine and THC vapor, and once it's triggered, a camera outside the bathroom records the student leaving the bathroom and notifies administrators.

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Jack Ham demonstrates how a camera records after a vape detector is triggered in a school bathroom.

According to Ham, students that are caught can face several consequences.

“The student receives some form of in-school or out-of-school suspension, they can also be recommended for substance abuse counseling,” said Ham. “Next year we are beefing this up a bit, because we know that suspensions don’t necessarily change behavior."

He says this comes down to teaching the student about the dangers of vaping, and the potential legal consequences.

"A lot of resources are going into our matrix next year where we are going to be requiring students to participate in online educational programs," he said. "They can receive a citation from law enforcement, they may lose the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities. We really want to get their attention by supporting them and the cessation and stopping of vaping.”

Ham said over 215 vape detectors will be installed in school bathrooms countywide. The detectors are part of a new three pronged approach to vape deterrence that was established by a Vape Task Force made up of community stakeholders.

“They have come together 14 times this year to discuss three things: discipline, education and resources,” said Ham. “So we are dividing and conquering and looking forward to this multi-year plan of getting inside our schools, preventing vaping and correctly reprimanding and redirecting the use of vapes in our schools.”

According to Ham, the vape detectors have already been delivered to CCPS and will be installed over the summer.