Students are getting in trouble for vaping at school less often under a tougher anti-vaping policy implemented this fall, according to Cherokee County School District officials.

School district spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby said that discipline incidents have gone down since August when the new policy went into effect. Instances of students found vaping or with vaping paraphernalia are fewer across nicotine, THC and vaping devices. In November, nine incidents were reported for THC, 29 for nicotine, and nine for devices or other paraphernalia; those numbers in August were 13 THC, 37 nicotine, and 12 vaping devices.

Medical incidents involving vaping have gone down as well, according to the school district. Jacoby said last year, all of the county’s public high schools reported repeated 911 calls related to vaping, and this fall semester there were none.

Jacoby said directly comparable data from last year isn’t available because vaping is counted differently under the new policy.

“We appreciate the support we’ve received from the community in raising awareness of the dangers of vaping and the tougher school rules we’ve established to discourage vaping,” Superintendent Brian Hightower said. “Since we established these new tougher repercussions, many young people across the country have become seriously ill or died from vaping-related illnesses. I thank our School Board for taking such a strong stand to keep our kids safe.”

The policy creates tougher punishments for students with vaping devices or oil at school, which is now treated as if students are in possession of felony-level marijuana. Previously, vaping was treated like tobacco use. Discipline measures can include immediate external suspension from school, long-term reassignment to an alternative school and possible expulsion.

The policy shifts the burden to students to prove that their devices and oils do not contain marijuana-derived THC oil in order to avoid the most serious punishments.

Earlier this year, the school district sent out communication to parents on the health risks associated with vaping. This fall, the district held a video contest for students to create public service announcements against vaping.

Shannon is a reporter covering education, city governments, crime, features, religion and other local news. She is a graduate of Young Harris College and currently lives in unincorporated Woodstock.

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