District receives anti-vaping grant


(Ethan Swope)

By Logan Little, Editor in Chief

The California Department of Education awarded approximately $224,000 to the Tamalpais Union High School District (TUHSD) for this school year as part of the Youth Engagement to Address Tobacco-Related Health Disparities Grant to mitigate the growing vaping crisis in minority student groups.

A separate grant from the Department of Justice, obtained by the Marin Police Agency, will fund vaping detectors throughout district schools.

The grant is “specific to serving students where there are existing health disparities,” TUHSD wellness director Jessica Colvin said. “So we focused the grant on five groups: LGBTQ students, Latinx students, African American students, and students from our two alternative high schools [Tamiscal and San Andreas].”

The money will be used to hire drug and alcohol counselors as well as fund drug-use-specific nursing services at district schools. It will also strengthen the district’s relationship with organizations such as BACR, the Marin City Health and Wellness Center, Huckleberry Youth Program, and the Spahr Center, according to TUHSD senior director of student services Wes Cedros.

This includes financing a Marin City Health and Wellness Center employee to be on campus at Tam to provide drug abuse support to students from Marin City.
Additional prevention programs will also be implemented.

“We will be using the Stanford Tobacco Toolkit and Marijuana Prevention Toolkit, both evidence-based intervention programs, emphasizing harm reduction and education,” Cedros said. “Some money will also be used to evaluate the effectiveness of our efforts.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report in early September which detailed 380 cases of vaping-related respiratory illness in 36 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands since April.

According to the 2018 California Healthy Kids Survey, 80 percent of Marin students do not believe there is great risk or harm from regular use of e-cigarettes and 47 percent of 11th-grade students reported that they had used e-cigarettes or vapes.

“It’s a matter of educating teens to make better choices,” former peer resource teacher Kelli McGiven said. “People think of other drugs as being more scary because the immediate effects are more severe, but [vaping is] highly addictive. And that’s the thing that scares me, because a lot of these teens that are doing it for fun now are going to become lifelong users.”

Along with the TUHSD, the Novato Unified and Ross Valley school districts also received $130,278 and $114,737, respectively. The grants will be renewed annually for all districts over the next three years.

“The advantage of a large grant like this is that it gives us sufficient flexibility to invest in multiple approaches to address the issue,” Cedros said. “There’s never a one-size-fits-all solution to any type of public health crisis and vaping is no different. The ability to vary the approach — as we can do with this grant money — will help us reach more students, wherever they may be on the spectrum of use or addiction.”