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Nebraska school district to begin random nicotine testing on students to combat vaping

Extracurricular activity privileges will be revoked for kids who are busted

Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Image

Administrators at Fairbury Public Schools in Nebraska have noticed an increase in students sneaking around with e-cigarettes and have devised a plan to cut down on vaping: Kids involved in extracurricular activities will now be subject to random nicotine testing, and those who test positive for the drug will be punished by having those on-campus privileges revoked.

The idea appears to be largely supported by the community, but some opponents say discipline over vaping is better left to parents.

What are the details?

Starting this fall, students who take on additional school activities such as National Honor Society or cheerleading in the rural district could be randomly selected to submit a urine sample for analysis. If nicotine shows up in their system, they are benched from their extracurricular activities for 10 days.

If a follow-up test shows nicotine again, offenders are banned for another 45 days, and must (at their own expense) be evaluated by a certified substance abuse counselor or licensed mental health provider, NBC News reported. On the third offense, the student's extracurricular privileges are revoked for a year, and they will be forced to spend their time outside the classroom in other ways.

The drug testing plan was devised after school officials noticed that from the 2017-2018 school year to 2018-2019, the number of students caught vaping went from seven to 30 in the district of 900 kids. The junior-senior high school has an enrollment of 383.

"It's a huge problem," Superintendent Stephen Grizzle told NBC. "And right now, I think it's new enough that we're being very naïve to think that more kids aren't doing it."

In explaining the reasoning behind the crackdown, Grizzle said, "Our main concern is that number one, [vaping is] unhealthy. Number two, it's against the law: they are not supposed to be able to purchase cigarettes and vaping and all that. I think it would stand to reason that it would get in the way of opportunities and educational experiences if they're focused more on when they can vape as opposed to what's going on in the classroom."

According to The Washington Post, the school district is also considering the installation of WiFi-enabled vape detectors in its bathrooms as an additional deterrent, which can cost as much as $1,000 apiece.

Anything else?

Local newspaper Fairbury Journal-News posted a Facebook poll to gauge public opinion on adding nicotine to the district's drug testing program, and as of this writing, 70 percent of the 686 voters said they were in favor of the action.

Several respondents praised the plan, with one commenting they weren't sure "how anyone could see this as a bad thing," while another argued "this is not the school's place. It's a parental issue."

One last thing…
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