Addressing an ‘epidemic.’ Fayette will put vaping sensors in some middle schools

Fayette County Schools is installing vaping sensors in four Lexington middle schools to confront what school officials have called an “epidemic” leading to addiction and health issues for Lexington students.

The district will use settlement money from a lawsuit against the vaping companies, Superintendent Demetrus Liggins said last week.

District documents identify the middle schools as Beaumont, Jessie Clark, Southern and Winburn.

Education Week reported in 2023 that more school districts “are turning to a technology that detects chemicals from e-cigarettes in the air and notifies school staff that students could be vaping.”

Some school district officials around the country say they are using money from legal settlements with the e-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs to pay for the sensors, Education Week reported.

The Fayette County Public Schools board in March 2023 entered into a settlement with JUUL after the board filed a lawsuit against the e-cigarette company in late 2019.

Louisville attorney Ron Johnson previously told the Herald-Leader that tobacco company Altria, formerly called Phillip Morris, was the second defendant in the case.

Liggins said Fayette County Public Schools would use some money from that settlement to install the sensors and the middle schools were the first in the district to get the sensors.

Fayette school district spokesperson Dia Davidson-Smith said Monday that the district has received at least $770,000 in the Atria settlement disbursement.

It was not immediately disclosed how much the school district is spending to install the sensors.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced in 2022 that Kentucky would see $14 million from settlements with JUUL.

School board member Amy Green at the School Board’s June 10 planning meeting asked that the services of the two companies providing the sensors be reviewed after one year.

School board member Marilyn Clark asked whether other schools would get the sensors. Liggins said the school board could consider using the sensors in other schools.

Fayette Schools’ spokesperson Dia Davidson-Smith told the Herald-Leader on Friday that Tates Creek High School “did a trial run of the sensors but did not implement the use of vape sensors in FCPS high schools. FCPS Middle schools are the only ones with sensors.”

Kentucky Youth Advocates in April reported that efforts were made in the 2024 General Assembly to address vaping in schools, “a rapidly increasing problem across the Commonwealth.”

House Bill 142, which passed, ensures all Kentucky schools adopt a vape-free campus policy and provide tobacco and nicotine education to each student, a Kentucky Youth Advocates blog said.

The bill also requires schools to adopt a discipline policy for vaping incidents, including confiscating products and providing cessation resources.

The bill leaves additional discipline actions up to local school boards but requires data collection on these incidents that will be reported to Kentucky Department of Education, the Kentucky Youth Advocates blog said.