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Ambulance responds to East Carter vape incident

Student reaction should be a learning moment superintendent says

By Jeremy D. Wells

Carter County Times

An ambulance responded to East Carter High School on Thursday morning after a student had an adverse reaction to the contents of a vape cartridge, causing them to lose consciousness.

While the student did have a reaction to the contents of the vape, they didn’t appear to suffer any lasting harm, school superintendent Dr. Paul Green said. But that might not always be the case, he added, and points to a need for students to follow rules that restrict vaping on school grounds and laws that prohibit vaping by minors.

“(Vaping) is a huge issue, not just for Carter County Schools, but schools all across the state,” Green said, noting that school districts have experienced the problem from high school all the way down to the elementary school level.

“They’re easy to conceal. They’re odorless. And it’s kind of a fad, so a lot of these kids they think it’s cool to smoke or vape,” he continued.

“And they’re flavored,” he added, explaining that the fact they don’t necessarily taste bad or stink up your clothes like tobacco or marijuana cigarettes also makes them appealing.

“But what they don’t understand is that while there are perhaps some of these that aren’t as harmful as others – though they’re all harmful – but a lot of times kids don’t know what’s in these,” he said.

That became an issue on Thursday when the students who had the vape got rid of it, fearing punishment, and medical personnel had to wait on toxicology reports to determine what the student was in fact reacting to.

“Today we had a situation where a student, a few students, were vaping and one of them had an adverse reaction,” Green explained. “It’s under investigation. We’re still trying to find out exactly what caused that adverse reaction. But the student did have a time where they were unconscious, and the ambulance was called, and they were transported to the hospital.”
“The student’s going to be fine,” he continued. “But it was a very scary moment, in a situation where these kids are using these things that they don’t even really know what it is. Or maybe they did know what it is, but they don’t understand the impacts, the safety, and how it puts them in danger.”

Though it could have been an allergic reaction to something in a nicotine vape juice mix, Green said it’s not just nicotine found in vape cartridges. Marijuana and marijuana compounds are another popular item for use in vape pens, but practically anything could be put into a vape cartridge for consumption.

“There’s lots of these things that kids can get ahold of. It’s a problem,” Green said. “I think most of the time it is nicotine, but there are others out there. It’s a major problem.”
While he didn’t have the exact numbers at hand, he said vape related violations probably top the list of disciplinary responses.

“We’re constantly having to send kids home for vaping. But, for whatever reason, it’s very difficult for us to get through to these kids how unsafe it is and that we’re doing this because we’re concerned about their safety. We don’t want them to do this.”
That’s all apart from the fact that it’s illegal for minors to possess nicotine vapes, or other legal vape products marketed to adults.

“They continue to do it, and we try to educate. We try to work on the problem. We try to do everything we can to prevent this; to educate our kids and our families on the dangers,” he said. “Again, this morning, it was an unfortunate event, but we need to learn from this and teach others,” Green continued. “This is the reason why it’s important we don’t do these things.”
“What if that had been a vape that had something (stronger) in it? Or what if you’re just (allergic)? If it’s something more minor but you have an allergic reaction to that? People have those too. So, it’s scary. We’re happy to report today nobody’s life is in danger. But, on the other hand, we know it’s an issue. We know we need to work on it. And we want all of our students and families to understand this is something we all need to take seriously.”

Green said one of the other things students need to understand is that, even if they’re worried about getting in trouble, they need to be honest about what they were doing in a situation like this. During the situation on Thursday the other students – likely fearing repercussions – got rid of the vape they had been using. This made it harder for first responders to determine what kind of reaction the student was having.

“The first thing they (first responders) want to know is what was in it? Because they don’t know how to treat a student, or anybody, if they don’t know what they’ve actually consumed or inhaled. So, it’s a scary situation where we’re glad that today didn’t end in anything worse, but we want to make sure we continue to work hard with everybody to prevent this from happening in the future.”

“And,” he added, “understand that we want to educate, but we have to draw a line in the sand and say, ‘We’re not going to tolerate this in our school.’ We’ve got to be strict. We’ve got to, because a suspension is a far more minor consequence than a child being permanently injured or a fatal event because they’re doing these things they shouldn’t be doing.”

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com




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