SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Springfield Public Schools (SPS) are setting up drop-off boxes in their facilities to encourage their students to get rid of their vape and tobacco products.
The school district teamed up with the Greene County Tobacco and Vape Prevention Coalition, a local group working to prevent tobacco use in Springfield, to help them come up with ways to encourage students to quit tobacco.
The Greene County Coalition created the Springfield Area Vape Education (SAVE) program which came up with the vape drop-off boxes.
“The purpose of the drop box is to promote free and anonymous text-based cessations services, while also creating a safe place for a student, staff or community member to turn in a vape device to be properly disposed of,” said Brad Brummel, SPS coordinator of physical education, health and engagement activities. “This creates a safer learning environment in our schools and provides safe opportunities for students to make health-enhancing behaviors.”
Courtney Martin, director of student services, said SAVE’s drop-off boxes went along with SPS’s current efforts to stop tobacco use in its schools.
“The numbers nationally and regional trends indicated that there was an issue at the high and middle school level with vaping,” said Martin. “We knew that we needed to do something to give kids an out and an opportunity not just to get rid of the vapes, but also to provide support to address the stress, anxiety or mental health issues that lead students to turn to tobacco.”
Martin said school police officers and counselors are taught to offer students resources and support about vaping, not punishment. The school district made this change after giving students caught with tobacco or vape an option: complete In School Suspension, or watch a 30-minute video developed by MD Anderson Hospital that detailed the harmful effects of tobacco usage.
SPS said students overwhelmingly chose the video over the suspension.
“The boxes, the resources at the school, these are intended to give kids the ability to discard vapes and then seek out somebody at the school to talk to, if they have an issue,” said Martin. “It’s a first step. And if we get one vape turned in, one student who quits, it’s a success.”