Graphic by Eva McCord '21

Administration responds harshly to vaping situation

October 4, 2017

The electronic cigarette was first invented by Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik in 2003; they were first available for sale in 2004.  Originally intended as a device to help people kick the habit of smoking traditional cigarettes, the modern “vape” has now gained notoriety as a recreational activity, and has gained a “vaping” subculture to boot.

Some now fear that vaping will permanently damage the lung health of youth and eventually turn them into avid consumers of traditional tar-laden cigarettes.  But no matter how one posits it, vaping is actually a relatively harmless activity, especially when compared to traditional smoking methods.

The lack of research in this field should draw some concerns, of course, but to say that the negative ramifications of vape use even come close to those associated with cigarette use is downright foolish.

However, despite this, vaping is still illegal for minors and is not tolerated on school property.  If one is eighteen and off of school grounds, vape away.  But if one desires to vape on school grounds, one should expect to face the wrath of the administration.   This is to be expected–it is the administration’s job to punish those that violate school rules, and to turn those individuals over to the police who violate common public law.

What isn’t expected, however, is for the administration to strip the rights and privileges of students who follow the rules.  Considering the extremely low toxicity of vapes in general, it shouldn’t be expected that the wrath of the administration is overtly harsh in the face of this problem.

So what actions has the administration taken in the face of “problem” students vaping in the bathrooms?  They have decided to limit the amount of people allowed in male bathrooms.  Rather than merely punishing the perpetrators, the administration has decided to punish all student males (but not females, oddly enough).

Limiting the use of restroom facilities isn’t merely a revocation of a student privilege, it is the stripping of a basic human right.  Yes, we believe that the ability to relieve oneself whenever they please is a basic human right.  The fact that high school students are already limited in their use of restroom facilities (in that one must ask permission from a teacher to do so) is already abhorrent enough.  To further restrict half of the student body is essentially totalitarian in nature.

And what is the point of regulating the students like this?  Vaping in the restrooms is more akin to how students used to smoke cigarettes in the restrooms back in the 1950s; it is not analogous to heavy drug use.  There is no need for wide-reaching and invasive action on the student’s rights.

However, it is understandable that the administration would want to limit drug use on campus as much as they possibly can.  But is this even the best means to achieve that goal?  Sure, the new bathroom policy will certainly stop groups from vaping together in the bathrooms.  But what’s to stop individuals from doing so? Unlike cigarettes, vaping is easy, discreet and clean- one could easily hop into the bathroom by themselves to satisfy a quick fix.

The problem here is that there is no easy solution that keeps students from vaping on campus.  Any action taken that will truly prevent vaping in the restrooms is going to impose limitations on the student body or possibly even a suspension of privacy.  Hypothetical images of teachers raiding the bathrooms or students being employed to rat out other students definitely invoke Orwellian tones.

When one considers these other possibilities, the idea of limited restroom use seems welcoming.  But that still doesn’t justify limited restroom use- it is still authoritarian, belittling and does little to solve the issue at hand.  

 The administration needs to decide whether they would rather uphold the tradition South has as being a fairly free school, or whether it wants to uphold a delusionally optimistic drug policy.  Drug use is going to be prevalent at any public high school in America, and South has very little of it in the first place.  But it is up to the administration whether or not they want to sacrifice South’s renown for having a free campus in favor of pedestaling a drug-free ideal which will probably never come to pass.

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