North Vancouver high school locks washrooms to stop student vaping

Mother upset by Seycove Secondary's decision to leave only one bathroom open

The mother of a North Vancouver teen says she’s unimpressed with a decision by Seycove Secondary to lock two out of three school washrooms in response to student vaping.

Parent Janet McCairns said she first heard about the issue when her 16-year-old daughter went to use the washroom and discovered it was locked.

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A letter has since been sent home to parents, explaining that two sets of washrooms have been locked because too many students were leaving class to vape in the bathroom.

McCairns said she shares concerns about that but still doesn’t think locking the washrooms, leaving only one set of bathrooms, is appropriate for a school with more than 500 students.

“To have one set of washrooms is not adequate,” she said, particularly when students only have five minutes between classes.

McCairns added locking the bathrooms seems like a draconian measure and not one that would be tolerated in an adult environment.

“I just don’t think this is the way we would deal with it if these were not teenagers,” she said.

vape pens
Some vape pens are very small and don’t give off either smoke or odour, making them hard to detect. Photo supplied

Deneka Michaud, spokeswoman for the North Vancouver School District, said the decision to lock some of the washrooms and locker rooms when they aren’t being used is a temporary measure put in place to highlight the vaping problems.

Vaping among students has been a growing problem at all North Vancouver high schools, said Michaud. Washrooms and locker rooms have been popular places for students to vape, she said, adding some students text each other in class and arrange to meet for the purpose of vaping. Some students have even been caught vaping during class, she said.

Both smoking and vaping are banned on school property.

One issue with policing the problem is that vape pens are now very small and don’t give off either smoke or odour, making them hard to detect.

But those who are vaping in the washroom have made it uncomfortable for other students — particularly younger students — to go in there, Michaud said.

While it’s possible to vape different substances, including cannabis, most students appear to be vaping nicotine products, she said

Often students who are vaping are non-smokers who could be setting themselves up for nicotine addiction and health problems, she said. “It is a concern across the entire school district.”

Having only one main set of washrooms open — plus a gender-neutral washroom and an accessible washroom — makes it easier for staff to monitor which students are coming and going, Michaud said.

“The intention from the school is not to impede people’s ability to go to the washroom,” she said.

The number of washroom facilities open still meets regulatory requirements, she said.

Michaud said school administrators will monitor the situation and hope to reopen the washrooms once the point has been made about the problem.

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