A nationwide craze among teeagers has become a health and disciplinary issue at HHS: e-cigarettes.
More than a dozen students have been caught on campus with electronic cigarettes so far this year, and School Resource Officer Kyle Pierce estimates that the actual number using the devices is much higher - perhaps a third of HHS’s 1,600 students.
“Most do it in class when the teacher is out of the room, that is really where a lot of it happens,” Pierce told The Ville News recently.
E-cigarette violations are handled like any other tobacco violation on campus: Students caught face out-of-school suspension and, possibly, juvenile court.
The most popular brand of e-cigarette among teens is Juul, so much so that smoking one is commonly called “Juuling.” A Juul resembles a USB flash drive and releases less smoke than a regular cigarette, making it easy to conceal. A California teen told NBC News that students “take a hit, sucking on the device as they would a cigarette. Then they blow it into their backpacks … or into their sweater when the teacher isn’t looking.”
Many at HHS say it is not unusual to smell the smoke in the school bathrooms or locker rooms. The nicotine pods that go inside the e-cigarette come in flavors like mango, fruit medley, and creme brulee, so the smoke often has a distinct, sweet smell to it.
“People are doing it every time I go in the bathroom,” said a senior who served a three-day suspension last month for possessing a Juul. “It’s very common.”
A group of girls was recently caught smoking e-cigarettes in the girls' locker room. Wellness teacher Stacia Dean said she was “disappointed” and vowed to sit in the locker room as long as necessary to prevent it from happening again.
School officials have even found e-cigarettes, which run by rechargable battery, accidently left charging around the building.
Financially, the devices are within reach of many teens. The cigarette itself cost around $60, and the nicotine pods run about $5, the same as a pack of regular cigarettes.
“Students usually get them online by falsifying their date of birth and get the package at their door without their parents ever realizing,” said Debbie Sheets, a counselor with the drug and alcohol awareness group Students Taking A Right Stand.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced this month that teenage use of e-cigarettes has reached an “epidemic proportion.” The agency also put Juul and other manufacturers on notice that they have just a couple months to prove they can keep their products away from minors or face consequences, including the removal of e-cigarettes from the market or limits on the sale of certain flavored products.
Retailers who sell the devices to minors are also being hit with warnings and fines.
The F.D.A. estimates that more than two million middle and high school students were regular users of e-cigarettes last year, and the trend seems to be on the upswing.
“It’s sad because underage smoking was at its lowest in history and then Juuls turned up,” Pierce said.
Many teens believe that electronic cigarettes are not as bad for their health as regular cigarettes, Sheets said. In reality, she maintains, e-cigarettes contain just much or more nicotine as regular cigarettes and are highly addictive.
“Nicotine is equivalent to heroin in terms of the power of the addiction,” Sheets said. “It’s going to be something that’s very difficult to stop.”
E-cigarettes are also worse for the lungs than regular cigarettes, according to Pierce, who said long-term use of the devices lead to “popcorn lungs,” a pitting in the walls of the lungs that makes breathing progressively more difficult and that does not clear up after the smoker quits.
Sheets, Pierce, and other school officials are trying to educate teachers and students to the dangers. The district held a training session for teachers at the beginning of the school year, and emails with the latest information have become commonplace in teachers’ inboxes.
“It all started as a trend, and now it’s socially acceptable,” Pierce said. “If you don’t do it, now you’re looked at like, ‘Well, why not?’”
Story by The Ville News staff
While some teachers struggle to motivate their students to sell during HHS’s annual magazine drive, others seem to have a secret panacea that puts their classes among the top performers every year.
English teacher Sam Gilbert falls into this latter category. This year Gilbert was third in overall money collected with $3,063 and first in average amount collected per student with $255.25. His classes consistently finish in the top 10.
“They’re excited about it, they want to win, and they’re motivated,” said Gilbert, who has only a dozen students in his first-block class yet still managed to raise more total money than classes with 30 or more students. “They also encourage each other.”
And they’re focused too; Gilbert makes sure of it. He said his sales are stronger when he talks up the magazine drive every day of every week of the sale.
Chemistry teacher Clancy Hall also puts a lot of time into the drive, and like Gilbert, Hall is a perennial powerhouse. This year his first-block class of 16 students raised about $2,825 overall (fourth highest), which works out to $176.56 per student (also fourth best).
“I try to make it a point of importance for our class and then also for us as a school,” Hall said. “It is a way for all of us to be on a team.”
Although emphasis and motivation go a long way (teachers aren’t supposed to offer academic rewards, but treats are a popular incentive), a good deal of luck is also involved. Teachers fortunate enough to draw an honors or advanced honors class for first block usually do better in sales than those who do not. Gilbert teaches Advanced Honors English, for example, while Hall teaches Honors Chemistry.
In fact, a Ville News analysis of the top sellers for this year shows that all but one of the top 10 finishers in average amount collected per student _ the fairest measure since it accounts for disparities in class size _ teach a first-block honors or advanced honors class. In many cases, the average amount collected per student in the leading honors classes is 10 or more times higher than that of some standard classes.
“I think students in honors classes have more resources,” said Assistant Principal Lisa Jaskot, who was responsible for trying to help motivate students to sell. Honors students, she said, also tend to be more competitive on average than standard students.
Even so, regardless of which teachers lead and which teachers lag, the entire school seems to win with the magazine drive. The money _ $69,516 this year, according to statistics from the administration _ is used for equipment and improvements that benefit everyone. Last year, for instance, the drive paid for new computers in the Vol State Lab, as well as for some renovations to the building.
“Mr. Cotter tries to add one new laptop cart a year … to give more students access to technology,” Jaskot said. “Technology is always a big initiative, trying to increase our availability.”
Following is a ranking of the top 10 teachers by average amount collected per student in the magazine drive. Only Christy Brown’s Marketing I class was not an honors or advanced honors class: Gilbert ($255.25), Tummons ($201.06), Brown ($191.25), Hall ($176.56), Kotler ($157.36), deJorge ($132.29), Walker ($96.93), West ($93.13), Allen ($78.87), and H. Thomas ($69.31).
Story by Kyra Hodge
Spanish teacher Lisa Jaskot shocked many of her former students when the new school year started last month. Instead of being in her usual Spanish-themed classroom, she was in the hallways toting a walkie-talkie.
Jaskot is HHS’s newest assistant principal. She was one of four candidates who applied for the job when her predecessor, Christy Wall, resigned to accept a promotion to the central office.
Principal Bob Cotter said Jaskot had the “best interview,” which included her arriving with a written plan to cut school absenteeism from 12.2 percent to less than 10 percent.
After being interviewed by Cotter and the other assistant principals, she was offered the position and has become a fixture in the halls, usually with a walkie-talkie and a kind word. She is known to drop into classrooms and leave teachers handwritten notes of encouragement. During the magazine drive, she had students giggling at her animated appeals to sell, sell, sell.
Jaskot, who taught for eight years, said her new role has been an adjustment.
“It’s significantly more fast-paced,” she said. "I see more students every day and work with more teachers.”
Fellow Spanish teacher Jessica de Araujo Jorge said the position allows Jaskot to “gain a different perspective into the decision-making” that goes on in a large public high school.
Still, Jaskot admits that she sometimes misses the classroom and “misses dancing,” something many of her former students remember about her. She even coined the nickname “Jazzy J” because of her upbeat and quirky Spanish lessons, in which she would often tell students, “You don’t have to be perfect to be amazing.”
In fact, for many of her former students, not all that much has changed, because in the hallway or in the classroom Jaskot is still “Jazzy J.”
“I think that she is one of the greatest and funniest teachers I have ever had,” said senior Keturah Tobias. “She's doing so well as assistant principal.”
Story by Rianna Waters
"I do solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."
Most people would expect to hear an oath of this nature in a courtroom instead of in a classroom. However, Hendersonville High’s student-run Commando Court functions in much the same way as an adult court.
The court meets during skinny block and is staffed by criminal justice teacher Regan Cothron’s fourth block class.
Student "defendants" are summoned to the court upon referral by a teacher, mostly for minor violations that would warrant a detention, things like missing ID tags, tardiness, or profanity.
The criminal justice students serve as prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, and jury, while Cothron presides as judge.
“The prosecuting attorney goes to the teacher to find out what happened and what they want to see happen,” Cothron explained. “The defense attorney talks to the student and gets their side of the story.”
After the two sides present their cases, including testimony from the defendant, the jury decides on the punishment.
Cothron said the jury is often “tougher than the administration would be.” Past penalties include a three-page paper and PowerPoint presentation on why it is inappropriate to be late to class.
Olivia Zecco, a senior, appeared before Commando Court last year for not wearing her ID. The court ordered her to write an apology letter to English teacher Taylor Coleman and to promise to wear her ID the rest of the year.
Zecco thought the court’s punishment was fair, and effective. She said last week – her ID in plain view - that she hasn’t been back to the court since.
Coleman estimates that she has sent about 15 students to Commando Court in the past year. She likes that the court tends to give “more appropriate” punishments than a simple detention. For example, she recalled that one student who was constantly late to class had to write the bell schedule multiple times.
Students who don’t follow through with the punishment return to the court and face stiffer penalties; if they still don’t comply, the matter is turned over to school administrators.
As for the criminal justice students who staff the court, the experience gives them a deeper understanding of the legal system. Clayton Stickle, a senior, said he found it particularly challenging to come up with reasonable punishments that fit the “crime.”
Cothron said students gain more control of the class as they become comfortable with the court’s operation. Her favorite part about Commando Court, she said, is getting “to step back and let the students do the work.”
Story by Kyra Hodge
Perhaps the only thing scarier than the prospect of a thumping at the hands of Blackman in the Commando’s season opener a couple of weeks ago was the ticket line before the game. It seemed to stretch forever across the parking lot. At least a few people groaned when they saw it and headed back to their cars.
HHS is trying to put an end to the long lines with a new e-ticket that can be ordered through the school’s web site (hhs.sumnerschools.org). A little more than 100 electronic tickets were sold for the Blackman game, and HHS Athletic Director Dr. Ron Sarver expects an increase in sales for the Friday (Aug. 31) home game against Station Camp.
“It’s not about the numbers,” said Sarver, who would like to see steady growth in sales with each home game. “It’s more about trying to help people get into the games without standing in line.”
Theater arts teacher Laurie Kerhoulas-Brown and math teacher Connie Ernsberger worked in the ticket booth for the Blackman game. When they saw how long the line was getting, largely due to a reconfiguration of the booth to accommodate a new air conditioning unit, they dashed together some makeshift signs advertising the e-tickets and put them where people could see them. Several patrons ended up purchasing the tickets right there and bypassing the wait.
The electronic tickets do include a $1.05 “convenience fee,” but they likely saved people a 30- or 40-minute wait at that first game.
With an e-ticket, patrons can walk right up to the gate and display it on their phones. The ticket-taker taps a verification screen, and that’s it, the customer walks right in.
Kerhoulas-Brown predicts many will take advantage of the new tickets once “they get to know that it would be so convenient to buy the tickets at their own leisure.”
In the meantime, a pair of good comfortable shoes should help with that long wait.
Story by Kaila Jones, Caden Watterson and Tony Fili
When the Commandos take the field each week, they hope to knock their opponents into the stratosphere like a “Rocket Man” propelled down the “Yellow Brick Road” by the “Pinball Wizard.” Their foes will be singing a lot of really “Sad Songs” because they’ve just been extinguished like “A Candle in the Wind.”
We know, we know, enough already.
But it’s hard to stop with the HHS Band of Gold cranking up the music of Elton John during this season’s halftime shows.
Band director Dr. Jeff Phillips said the show is a tribute to Sir Elton because of his influence on popular music and because the 71-year-old star launched his farewell tour this year.
Phillips and the marching band have successfully mined other classic rock catalogs, perhaps most notably the music of the Beatles and Queen.
Among the Elton John tunes the band will perform this season are “Funeral for a Friend” and its companion piece “Love Lies Bleeding,” and the rowdy “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.”
You can see the Band of Gold’s Elton John tribute Friday when the Commandos face Station Camp at home.
Let’s hope the Commandos “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.”
Story by Jaron Tabb