Break-in at school results in educational program

At the program educating Phillips High School students about vaping are, from left, Bear Creek Police Officer Noah Markham, School Resource Officer David Richards, Elaine Softley with the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service and Bear Creek Police Chief Eddie Collins.

By Chad Fell
Courtesy of the Northwest Alabamian
BEAR CREEK — A recent break-in at Phillips Schools was one of the factors behind a recent educational program warning students of the dangers of vaping.
A juvenile allegedly forced open a window leading into the area of the high school principal’s office, then forced entry into the principal’s office and allegedly took a bag of vapes the principal had confiscated from students, emphasized Bear Creek Police Chief Eddie Collins.
“(The principal) confiscates vapes all the time,” Collins pointed out.
Since a school function was taking place at the time the break-in occurred, no security alarms sounded, according to Collins.
Due to this incident and the vaping issues in schools, Collins worked with new Phillips Schools Resource Officer David Richards, Elaine Softley with the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service and school administrators for a program Wednesday, May 1, warning students about the dangers of vaping.
“There is a nationwide, if not worldwide, issue with vaping among teens,” stated Phillips High School Principal Dr. Al Temple. “It’s not just a Phillips High or a Bear Creek issue.”
When a student  is found in possession of a vape, the vape is confiscated and the student’s parents are contacted, with the student facing in-school suspension, according to Temple.
“If it turns into multiple times, then it could elevate to  out-of-school suspension or even further,” Temple said.
Temple was approached by Richards about the need for the vaping program, which received the full support of the Bear Creek Police Department.
“There is an illusion that vaping is not harmful and that it’s not as bad as cigarettes. I disagree with that,” Collins stated.
Richards, who came onboard as the Phillips school resource officer in March,  has already been involved in multiple programs to educate students on such issues as vaping, distracted driving and other dangers, Collins said.
“Most of the information these kids get is word of mouth or something they see on the internet,” Collins stated. “It is our responsibility to educate them when it comes to things like nicotine addiction or illegal drugs being used through vape.
“Here’s where the problem comes in with the vapes at school,” Collins explained. “You have a selling point there because kids can’t go to the store and buy it. These kids will get these vapes from some source, and they will resell them at school for a profit.
“You have to be 21 years old to even buy one,” he stated.
Therefore, Collins said it was important local and state officials partner  to educate students about the dangers of vaping.
Richards and Softley targeted students in grades 6-9 with their program emphasizing the dangers of vaping.
“We’re trying to catch them earlier because as days go by, we see it younger and younger,” Richards said. “The earlier you can catch them, give them information they don’t have and need, success comes from that.
“(Vapes) are in every school,” Richards pointed out. “I want their eyes to be opened  to the fact that it is not safe.”  
The program conducted by Softley for 8th grade students opened the eyes of students, as well as law enforcement about all of the harmful chemicals contained in vapes.
“Any time you introduce foreign matter like chemicals into your body, it’s never a  positive result. It’s never a good thing,” Richards said.
Eighth grade student Evan Clayton expressed after the program that he was surprised to learn all of the harmful chemicals in a vape.
“I was definitely surprised. You never really know how many chemicals are in things like that,” Clayton said.
“It kind of opened my eyes to a whole new way of looking at things,” Clayton added. “I learned that vaping is dangerous.”
Richards addressed the 8th grade class, about the surety of vapes in the school.
“I know for a fact there are people in here who vape,” Richards told students. “I know there are vapes in the room right now. It’s just the way it is.
“I have this image of you guys being eighth graders and in four years somebody having to go across the stage and get a diploma pulling an oxygen bottle along with them in order to be able to make it across that stage,” Richards pointed out.
Softley told students the reason she began addressing the dangers of vaping in schools was due to the increasing problems associated with the drug…

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