Vaping epidemic prompts new procedures, vigilance at Brevard school

There is a drawer in a filing cabinet in the main office of Melbourne High School chock full of vaping devices, all confiscated from students. Sometimes they contain nicotine, sometimes fruit flavors, sometimes THC. This drawer is a very real symbol of what monopolizes hours upon hours of Principal Chad Kirk’s schedule.

“We are constantly acting on information that’s coming in,” Kirk said.

Tips about kids bringing in vape devices come in via messages left on a telephone hotline. Kirk says the vaping epidemic has transformed his school's disciplinary strategies from the classroom to the bathroom.

To use the restroom, students have to sign-in, so the adults can keep track of who is coming and going, and possibly vaping. Now schools have even turned into drug testing laboratories. The school resource officer has a kit on hand that can instantly test what's actually inside one of the devices. If it turns purple, that means there's THC inside, and that means big-time trouble.

“We absolutely do our due diligence to make sure these things aren’t coming onto campus,” Kirk said.

Last year, Brevard County school officials reported vaping was the number one disciplinary issue. That trend continues this year. The Surgeon General says vaping among teenagers is at an epidemic level -- over three million high school students in the country are doing it, or one in five students.

Kirk says parents need to know how to look for signs of vaping. That’s not checking pockets for a pack of smokes or sniffing clothes for a stench. They need to be looking for something that looks like a USB drive. Some files have the names of candy flavors.

Kirk says his staff is adapting as the trends evolve to protect kids from the next danger down the road.