Volusia County School Board considers new punishments for kids caught vaping, plus other new rules

Volusia County’s School Board is considering new rules, as well as new punishments for violating them. One of the main issues the board is trying to tackle is vaping in the Volusia County School District.

FOX 35 News has been reporting on a 14-year-old’s journey to quit vaping after he got hooked in the 7th grade. That teen and his family had both been talking with administrators within the Volusia County School District, asking them to crack down on the issue.

Now, the school board is making moves to do just that. Volusia County’s board said one out of every six kids in middle and high schools actively use vapes, and one in 11 admit to doing it on the school campus. They’ve even reached elementary schools, the Board said. Part of that is due to how easy it is for kids to conceal them.

"It can look like a pen, it can look like a highlighter," a presenter with the Board recounted.

The Board is mulling over new consequences for kids caught vaping. The proposal says kids caught with a vape will be suspended for five days; if they’re caught using it, they’re out for 10 days. Several of the board members were actually against the proposed punishment. District 3 Board Member Ruben Colón, who is also a licensed respiratory therapist, was the first to speak out against it. 

"Five days you’re out, nobody is talking to you, you’re at home vaping 24/7 because you can, and we really haven’t addressed the root of the addiction," said Colón. 

The board presenters did suggest also having children caught with vapes go through addiction treatment. Still, two other Board members agreed with Colón: the proposed punishment would be difficult to enforce, and might not be practical. 

The board is also thinking about new rules for mobile devices. District 3 Board Member Jessie Thompson voiced that she believes the phones should have to be off from bell to bell, meaning students wouldn’t be allowed to use them at lunch or recess. 

"Our teachers complain constantly that they can’t get kids’ attention, there’s only so much time in the day. So I honestly think there should be no cell phones," said District 3 Board Member Jessie Thompson. 

Board Chair Jamie Haynes says she doesn’t understand why kids in elementary or middle schools should need phones at all. Parent Jennifer Kelly agreed that the phones should be off and kept in students’ backpacks, but does think kids should be allowed to carry them.

"For emergency purposes, I do think they should be allowed to have them on them as long as they’re silent or powered off."

The list of mobile devices wouldn’t just mean cell phones; it would include things like Apple Watches and earbuds.

"When we’re giving instruction, or if – God forbid – there was a safety incident happening and we needed to give very quick, detailed instructions, we need their attention," one Board member explained.

That’s something Kelly agreed with.

"The Apple watches, they need to go because that is going to be a distraction just right there on your wrist."

Right now, the district is working with a focus group to figure out what the punishment will be for violating any new phone rules. Lastly, the district talked about bathroom use laws.

Kids can get discipline referrals or worse if they use a restroom designated for a different sex than the one assigned at the student’s birth.

"I’m okay for the first time with a warning and parent contact, but I think we need to follow the discipline steps after that because they’re encroaching upon restroom use of other students," said Board Chair Haynes.

All of these proposals are still in the planning stages. The Board still has a lot of decisions to make, especially for vaping rules.

If you are trying to quit vaping, or want to encourage a friend to do so, you can find resources to help by clicking here.