Medics evaluated several middle school students in Paso Robles said to be under the influence of concentrated cannabis they ingested by vaping.
Emergency responders were called to Daniel Lewis Middle School around 11 a.m. Friday.
“The principal and school site staff responded immediately when they were noticing maladaptive behavior,” said Jennifer Gaviola, Paso Robles Joint Unified School District deputy superintendent.
A local mom fears the odorless and easily concealable device could end up in the hands of even younger kids.
“If middle schoolers are able to get their hands on it, who knows if it’s going to be elementary schools next,” said Brittany Dalton, a Paso Robles mom.
Local educators are trying to bring awareness to what’s called a national vaping epidemic that seems to be involving younger generations.
“We have to have those conversations as young as your third and fourth graders that there are things out there that look and smell like candy, they look like a flash drive or a pen and they are dangerous and need to be avoided,” Gaviola said.
Recent data from the FDA shows a 48% increase in e-cigarette use among middle school students nationwide from 2017 to 2018.
In San Luis Obispo County, 3% of seventh graders and 11% of ninth graders reported using e-cigs in the same year, according to the county’s Tobacco Control program.
Local educators say the problem is getting worse.
”We know there is a trend nationwide and so we are trying to be really proactive in trying to educate our students and parents on what to look for,” said Erin Haley, Daniel Lewis Middle School Principal.
Town hall meetings regarding the “teen epidemic” were recently held, including one hosted by Daniel Lewis Middle School.
The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office last fall also conducted assemblies at the school focused on vaping.
“Hopefully the community can learn from [the incident] and it was a wake-up call,” Dalton said.
The district says vaping among students has increased significantly this year alone with more cases being at the high school level.
“It’s more rampant than we think, but the more involved you are in your child’s life, the less like it is to happen,” Gaviola said.
They have hired more counselors and mental health therapists. They encourage students, parents and staff to say something if they see something.
All of the students medically evaluated were able to go home to their families except one.
At last check, one student was still receiving medical treatment Friday evening.