CLEVELAND, Ohio — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Education are exploring potential changes requiring all schools to specifically track and report vaping infractions following a 3News investigation.
3News has been exploring the statewide vaping epidemic impacting teens all this month in our exclusive series called 'Clearing the Air.'
The results of our statewide survey, done in partnership with our sister stations in Columbus and Toledo, revealed a 700% increase in the number of students caught vaping.
But gathering that data wasn’t easy because many schools did not specifically track vaping infractions. We reached out to more than 600 school districts across the state. In total, 450 school districts got back to us. Of those, 353 districts provided us with the number of vaping infractions that took place over the last three school years.
That's something DeWine and the Ohio Department of Education says needs to change.
"I think you did a great job reporting this and coming up with this information which I think is helpful in sparking a lot of discussions," said Mandy Minick, Deputy Director of Communications for the Ohio Department of Education. "One of the things that we are committed to doing is trying to help to make sure that we are keeping students safe, keeping them healthy and out of danger. And so we agree with the governor’s office that this is something that we need look at in Ohio at a statewide level."
Eve Mueller, Deputy Director of Communications for Gov. DeWine, added, “Gov. DeWine will work with State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria and the State Board to encourage better data collection around youth vaping and hopes the Board will change its policy to capture specific information about vaping disciplinary issues at Ohio schools. In addition, he will ask ODE to consider surveying schools to gather facts about vaping incidents to provide a current snapshot of the data."
Our 3News investigation revealed vaping incidents in schools rose from 773 to 6,400 over the past three school years.
"As a state, that’s a concerning issue and we should try to have the tools to identify the problem," said Daniel Rambler, of Akron Public Schools.
Akron Public Schools is one of the many districts that gave us data for tobacco policy infractions, but could not give us data specific to vaping.
"For the state, that’s incredibly important to do so that way it can be determined there’s probably hot pockets of the area of the state where it’s more prevalent and then how do you design prevention tools to those areas," Rambler said.
Copley-Fairlawn City Schools recognized the trend years ago and is already separating vaping infractions and tobacco infractions.
"We’ve been doing that since we started learning about vaping," said Aimee Kirsch, of Copley-Fairlawn City Schools. "If we encompass vaping along with tobacco usage we’re not going to be to know how big of a problem is this and what we need to do to remedy the problem."
So what’s the timeline for ODE's statewide survey?
The department is still in the planning phase of the project. 3News is told it will take at least a couple of months before there will be any preliminary data.
Email 3News Investigates' Rachel Polansky at RachelPolansky@wkyc.com with story tips and comments.