HARRISBURG, S.D. (KELO) — The Harrisburg School District is tackling what it calls the vaping epidemic with several educational opportunities next week. District counselors are bringing in experts from law enforcement and Sanford Health to talk with staff, students and parents.
Students are vaping all over the country and right here in KELOLAND. Harrisburg North seventh-grader Bergen Rehnke says she’s sees it happening.
“From time to time yes and I don’t think it’s ok,” Rehnke said.
Rehnke is part of a group called TATU with fellow seventh-grader Wyatt Bill. That stands for “Teens Against Tobacco Use.” The group had a meeting a few days ago and Bill says he learned a lot about vaping and e-cigarette use.
“One in 20 middle schoolers actually vape and a lot of them choose to bring their vape pens to school. It’s something that is, we don’t know all the effects yet of vaping but it is seeming to be very harmful and dangerous,” Bill said.
The South Dakota Department of Health says there are 12 cases of people with a vape-associated lung illness. Harrisburg School Counselor Krista Groeneweg says getting the word out about the dangers is important.
“We brought this in as a counseling district because we’re celebrating Red Ribbon Week next week. That is prevention against drugs, alcohol and tobacco. So we wanted to be really proactive and get ahead of the game,” Groeneweg said.
Her fellow counselor Nate Rotert says today’s youth are being targeted. That’s why next week, a detective from Spearfish and a physician from Sanford Health will present to teachers and students. There’s also a public event Tuesday night for parents and community members.
“Let’s be ahead of it before that even happens and put our foot down on it and give the support to our kids that they need. Ultimately it’s their decision and we want to just prepare them to make the right decision,” Rotert said.
Community members and parents are free to attend the presentation in the North Middle School Performing Arts Center next Tuesday from 7-8 p.m. The next day, middle and high school students will have assemblies on the topic.