Vape issue causes closures at SC

Hayden Claesson, Sports Editor

As spring of 2018 rolled around in Western Springs, LT students began to see the end of the school year just around the corner. Around this time, most south campus students’ challenges are simply to prevent their GPA from tanking and nailing their finals; however, another problem students faced last year was something that should not have been an issue at all: using the bathroom.

At certain hours of the day, all except one bathroom for each gender would be closed due to the excessive vaping done in the restrooms during passing periods. It was an attempt to deter students from vaping at school.

“It’s a hard decision for us because it is basically punishing a group of people that have not done anything wrong,” LT’s head of security Gary Morrill said. “In the long run the message got out that ‘We are not going to tolerate this’ because that’s not what the bathrooms are for.”

The decision to close certain bathrooms came during the end of the 2017-2018 school year. Over 50 students at SC alone got caught using electronic cigarettes or e-cigs, Western Springs police chief Brian Budds said. This amount is significantly larger than it was in prior years at LT. The rise in use of nicotine products can be mainly attributed to the rise of cheap and small e-cigs like JUUL and Suorin that can be easily hidden on a student and leaves behind little trace of smell on students. These two factors make it easy for students to use them in restrooms and walk out unnoticed.

Certain smaller, less centrally located bathrooms were closed before and after school and during lunch periods where there was typically high vaping activity in restrooms, Assistant Principal Kelly Dostal said. This ultimately left only two bathrooms open, one boys and one girls, during the busiest times of the day for about 2,000 students to use.

“It was pretty annoying,” Aidan Walls ’21 said. “If you wanted to go before class, you would try to go to the nearest bathroom only to find it be closed and you would have to walk across the school in order to find a bathroom that was open.”

After bathrooms were closed, the amount of students caught vaping decreased significantly. While this strategy was used often last year, it has not yet been used during the 2018-2019 school year; however, if more complaints happen this year the staff will take action and close bathrooms.

The staff decided to close the bathrooms after they received numerous complaints from other students who were concerned about using the bathrooms in fear that they would either get in trouble for being associated with other students vaping, or they simply didn’t feel comfortable being around other students who were using e-cigs.

“If a security guard walks in and you are just standing around waiting to use the bathroom, then you have nothing to worry about,” Morrill said. “It’s when students are standing in a group and one of them has a vape that we have to take action and take them down to the office.”

If a student is caught vaping at LT, first offense would cause a them to attend a two-hour Saturday detention, as well as pay a fine of about $50 if the student caught is under 18 years old, Morrill said. Even though some students at LT are 18 years old, they still get punishment through the school. Every incident after the first offense has different punishments with increasing consequences each time a student is caught, such as a four-hour detention on a second offense, and six-hours on a third, eventually leading up to in school suspensions.