Reports last week that 15 La Vernia High School students admitted to vaping as they returned on a school bus from the Sept. 28 football game in Rockport-Fulton stirred a hornet’s nest of responses from community members.
Some claimed La Vernia students are out of control, as the reports came hot on the heels of the La Vernia Independent School District’s (ISD) investigations into allegations of students on the junior high campus engaging in the “five-star slap challenge.” In this “challenge,” a perpetrator delivers a slap so hard that it leaves an impression of the slapper’s hand, showing all five fingers, on the skin of the challenge target. The trend was brought to light in La Vernia after a mother shared photos of her son, who was the target of such an incident, with news media. The school district and La Vernia Police Department continue their investigations regarding the “slap challenge.”
Many cited that incidents, such as vaping and the slap challenge, are not isolated to La Vernia.
“… LV is not out of control,” Melissa Dylla responded on the La Vernia News Facebook page, adding that all districts have issues.
The district took disciplinary action after the 15 high school students — including football players, cheerleaders, band members, and flag runners — admitted to vaping on the Rockport-Fulton trip.
According to a statement from district officials, administrators followed a tip from an anonymous phone call alleging that football players were vaping on the school trip. Another call to a San Antonio TV station alleged “hundreds” of students engaged in vaping on the trip proved unfounded, the district said Oct. 10.
Along with tobacco use, vaping and “Juuling” by students on school grounds and at school-sponsored functions are forbidden by the Student Handbook and Student Code of Conduct.
In light of their admission, the 15 students received “appropriate consequences in accordance with our Student Code of Conduct and standards of behavior for their organization,” according to Superintendent Trent Lovette.
He encouraged parents and community members to educate themselves about vaping and Juuling, both growing trends among teens nationally, not just in La Vernia. The district has developed a plan, Lovette said, to educate and inform La Vernia students, parents, teachers, and staff about the dangers and consequences of vaping and Juuling.
Both are e-cigarettes; the JUUL device looks like a USB drive, making it harder to spot and popular with students. The cartridges, or pods, contain flavored juice, providing an attractive alternative to conventional tobacco cigarettes. However, each pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a fact many teen users are unaware of.
E-cigarettes are popular among adults trying to wean themselves off conventional cigarettes. However, studies indicate the opposite for teen users: For many, vaping or Juuling leads to smoking. According to a 2015 study, “for 2,000 adults who used vaping to stop smoking, more than 160,000 teenagers and young adults made the transition in the opposite direction.”
Many community members voiced concerns on the Facebook thread when La Vernia News shared this story.
Jenni Hennette may have best summed up the situation.
“LV is not out of control,” Hennette said, advising that the recent vaping busts are an opportunity for La Vernia ISD to tell parents to talk with their kids.
“After these last few weeks and incidents, I have heard many parents say they didn’t know what a Juul was or that it looks like a USB,” she said. “It’s hard for parents and schools to stay on top of the latest stupid trend or ridiculous challenge.”
La Vernia ISD, she said, “needs to be transparent and accountable (as best they can) and make parents aware of such situations. The parents need to parent their kids and engage in discussion over these issues.”
As for the students admitting to vaping on the Sept. 28 school bus trip: “The kids need to realize their choices have consequences,” Hennette said.
Volatile chemicals in e-cigarettes, such as proplylene glycol and glycerol, can form carcinogenic compounds when heated, such as vaping.
Vaping also has been linked to “popcorn lung,” or bronchiolitis obliterans — an incurable condition that damages the lungs’ smallest airways. The tiny air passages in the lungs get irritated and inflamed, leading to scarring. This makes the passages even narrower, and makes it harder for the person to get enough air.
The nickname, “popcorn lung,” came after workers at a factory packaging microwave popcorn — which uses diacetyl as a flavoring — were found to have bronchiolitis obliterans more often then other people. Diacetyl is also used in some e-cigarettes.
Most high-end vape makers don’t use diacetyl; however, more than half the mass-market e-cigarettes studied were found to contain the chemical, especially flavored vape juice. It makes the flavors richer.
The main symptoms of popcorn lung are similar to those of asthma and other lung diseases, such as:
•Shortness of breath
Because of this, it often goes undiagnosed and improperly treated.