Vape detectors are coming to two local schools

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Two Port Huron high schools will soon be getting vape detectors installed in their bathrooms.

The Port Huron Board of Education voted unanimously to approve the purchase of HALO Smart Sensors Monday, which can detect when vapes are being used. This motion comes in part with the district’s efforts to stop vaping in its schools.

Superintendent Theo Kerhoulas said in the meeting that when the sensors detect a vape, it will send a notification to a designated cellphone.

“This is a pilot and if it works, we can expand it to the middle schools as well,” he said.

According to its website, HALO Smart Sensors can be programmed for vape, smoke, THC product and sound abnormality detection.

The HALO Smart Sensors were quoted at $58,529.33 during the meeting. Funding for the sensors will come from a safety grants from the Michigan Department of Education.

The district plans to purchase 30 sensors that will go into eight bathrooms at each high school. Port Huron High and Northern will each received 15 sensors.

Kerhoulas said at the meeting that it is uncertain exactly when the sensors will arrive after being purchased. Once they come in, the district has asked both high schools to prioritize one set of bathrooms to install the sensors in first.

All of the sensors should be fully implemented by the 2024-25 school year.

Smoking electronic cigarettes, or “vaping,” is a growing trend among adolescents. Experts say many people first become exposed to drugs like nicotine as adolescents, and substance use can become a lifelong behavior.
“I think it’s great because back in my day, it was cigarettes and with those it’s hard to have the smell go away,” said Trustee Tim McCulloch at the meeting. “But vapes are so undetectable, unfortunately. A sensor like this would help.”

Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Catherine Woolman said in an email that there is no set discipline for when a student is caught with a vape. She said it depends on the student and the scenario.

At the meeting, Kerhoulas said the district wants to tackle the vaping issue within the buildings. Earlier this month, high schoolers in Port Huron Area Schools watched a zoom presentation from Daniel Aments, who had a double lung transplant due to vaping.

“It’s pretty powerful for our kids to hear from someone their age about the effects of vaping,” Kerhoulas said. “I know kids sometimes think it’s not as dangerous as cigarettes, and the reality is that it’s the other direction.”

Port Huron Area Schools is continuing to partner with the St. Clair County Health Department to further educate students of the health effects from vaping. Throughout the rest of the school year, health department staff will speak to middle and high school students in their health classes.