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Board chair: Knox County Schools should consider treating vapes as drug paraphernalia

The principal of Farragut High School said vaping THC is no different than using a bong.
Credit: NBC

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — The chair of the Knox County Board of Education said the district should consider treating vapes in school as drug paraphernalia, a designation that would increase the punishment for students caught with a vape as the district faces a rise in cases, on Wednesday. 

Susan Horn told 10News she would support the change in designation ahead of a planned work session on the topic for school board members. 

Since school began in August, the district reported at least 229 vaping incidents, 28 of which involved THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. 

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Most of the vaping incidents happened in high schools and resulted in a standard two-day out-of-school suspension for students. 

"There’s really no difference between a vape pen with THC in it and a bong with marijuana," Farragut High School principal John Bartlett said.

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Bartlett said Farragut High School officials catch students vaping on a weekly basis, but that he knows it happens more often than students get caught. 

"It’s not like cigarettes when you can walk by and tell someone is smoking a cigarette in a bathroom," he said. 

Bartlett also said vaping has increased in popularity among students who would not smoke a cigarette due to health concerns. 

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A big focus on the school board's agenda tonight: how to educate students about the dangers of vaping nicotine or THC. 

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"They’re actually going to be training some students who can then go back to their schools and help educate other students," Horn said.