VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) -- Vigo county leaders are taking a new approach to disciplinary action when it comes to dealing with vaping on school grounds. The School Corporation has teamed up with the hamilton center to introduce an educational program called "Catch My Breath" for high school and middle school students.
Last year alone, the Vigo County School Corporation saw 306 tobacco and vaping violations between their high school and middle school students. 25% of high school seniors and 10% of eighth-graders reported that they vaped just last month. With those numbers being so high, school leaders say something had to be done.
Previously, if a student was caught vaping, he or she would receive three days of in-school suspension. This was for first-time offenders and would cause the student to miss class for the duration of those days.
Starting this year, if a student is caught vaping, he or she will now have the option to enroll in and complete the "Catch My Breath" program rather than be put on suspension. Parents must give permission for the student to enroll in the program.
The program is offered by the Hamilton Center and consists of one 30 to 40 minute class a week for four consecutive weeks. Vigo County School Corporation wants students to not miss class and also be educated on the health risks and dangers of vaping.
The curriculum of the class includes topics such as the multiple chemicals that Juul pods contain and the effects they have on a person's lungs, brain, heart, and mouth. It will also cover how teens are becoming addicted to the nicotine inside Juuls and vaping products and also strategies on saying no to peer pressure to smoke these products.
The curriculum will differ between high school and middle school students to include age-appropriate material and information. Organizers with the school corporation and the Hamilton center view the program as a win-win bu keeping students in class while teaching them about the life long health effects vaping could have.
"The school corporation and we wanted to be very proactive," Erika McKinney, case manager supervisor at the Hamilton Center, said, "We want kids to be physically healthy, mentally healthy, and allow them to be successful with their academics."
"I think there is a large percentage of kids in that group that do use these and don't understand the dangers and health risks," Dean of Terre Haute North High School Chris Barrett added, "I think when they are presented with that information they will make an educated decision."
The Catch My Breath program's curriculum has been around for a couple of years. Statistics show that 88% of children who completed the program say they are less likely to continue using vaping products.