Juul Usage Being Addressed at Gates Middle School

Julia Gates and Brigid Murray

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The latest trend among middle-schoolers may be the most destructive yet. Within the past year, students at Gates Middle School have been using vape products, specifically the “juul.”

A juul is a highly concentrated nicotine vaporizer, which underage students use to get a “buzz” (urban dictionary). Designed to trick elders, a juul looks shockingly similar to a USB port, and some students use this disguise to sneak the device in and out of school. Middle school principal Ryan Lynch has been addressing this problem since December 2017. He is aware of this new “cool” trend and is shocked it has spread to such a young group of students.

Last winter, several concerned students from the middle school talked to their parents about witnessing juuling on the bus and in middle school restrooms. Other students went directly to the Gates administration about this problem. Lynch worked with families and 8th graders to resolve suspicions. Additionally, he held educational meetings with staff members. Displaying what a juul looks likes and warning teachers to take note of students who frequently go to the restroom — the most common area for juul users to meet — Lynch wants to take a proactive approach.

SPS administrators are even working with officials from the JUUL company in order to resolve the issue of an underage market. Even if students have been caught juuling during school, Lynch is aware that suspending them won’t solve the problem.

American teenagers have historically engaged in destructive habits. Lynch said he recalled students smoking marijuana in the restroom when he was a high schooler. Lynch can only conclude that teenagers participate in vaping because it is a “safe risk.” Nevertheless, he is concerned that students may not fully understand the long term effects of vaping.  

ScituateFACTS, a community coalition working to reduce teen drinking and substance abuse, conducted a survey and found that 10% of students at Gates vaped in last 30 days. This percentage increases with higher grades, so Lynch worries that if students start these destructive habits from a young age, it will only lead to worse habits in the future.

Lynch believes middle school should be a safe and positive place. He said, “Sixth graders should not walk into restrooms and see vaping.” Lynch did mention the “airport style” doorways leading into the restrooms help prevent the usage of juuls, but students sometimes still use them.

According to Lynch, the users of vape products are more distracted during the day because they’re more focused on vaping than on their schoolwork. He knows it is a problem in and out of the school, and he has been taking his own precautions.

Lynch strongly urges parents to educate their children on this issue and “healthy risks.” Lynch suggested more appropriate “healthy risks” could include soccer, hockey, or maybe even talking to their crush. Getting involved in vaping is a segue for students to take more harmful risks. Lynch is aware of the extent to which students will go to buy this product; however, the school community is actively working to reduce its availability and usage.


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Juul Usage Being Addressed at Gates Middle School