Dayton Public Schools consider product that would detect vaping

District says vapes have become an increasing issue in the schools, even in elementary schools.

To combat vaping and vandalism in Dayton Public Schools, district officials are proposing using grant funds from the state to purchase HALO products, which detect vape smoke and decibel levels to alert administrators to possible fights and vaping.

But some members of the public have concerns about privacy and over policing.

At a meeting on Tuesday, Richard Wright, the chief safety officer for DPS, said the goal of using the devices, which are usually installed outside of bathrooms and locker rooms, is to help students stop vaping and end fights more quickly.

“We want to stop our students that are smoking,” Wright said. “We can actually stop the fights that are going on in the restrooms.”

Erin Dooley, chief of secondary schools, said the district has found bathrooms to be places where students go to hide when they skip class or if they’re avoiding a teacher.

“The fact that we would be able to detect an incident in our restrooms in real time would be very helpful,” Dooley said. “So that adults could respond in a timely fashion.”

Judy Spurlock, chief of elementary schools, said the issue of vaping has even come into elementary schools.

The devices cost around $1,000 each, according to discussion at the meeting, and there would be installation costs as well. DPS officials said they had received a state grant to pay for the devices.

But some members of the public, who have also campaigned against traffic cameras in the city, also asked the school board not to approve the measure.

Melissa Bertolo asked the board if they would consider a use policy before purchasing the HALO devices. She said the board members should think about how the product would be used and what the consequences would be for anyone caught vaping with the devices.

Julio Mateo, a Dayton resident, agreed with Bertolo and asked the board to consider what would happen to the data collected by the devices.

“I would like to ask you that before you vote, to approve or not approve technology, require a high-quality assurance review to enable you to learn how these technologies were effective or effective, they are achieving their goals that are stated what safeguards they use to protect community members,” Mateo said.

DPS school board did not vote on purchasing HALO products at the most recent board meeting and it is unclear if the district would need to approve the purchase as the state has already approved the grant. DPS officials did not respond to a request to clarify.

Northmont High School has used the devices since January of 2020 and is now considering them for the middle school due to their usefulness, said Jenny Wood, spokeswoman for Northmont.

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