Ridgefield High School cracks down on vaping
The staff at Ridgefield High School has increased its policing of students using electronic cigarettes — popularly known as vapes — on school property, a number of students told The Press.
RHS senior Paul Kim said Anthony Cataldo, the school’s assistant athletic director, and School Resource Officer Fernando Luis routinely knock on the door to the men’s bathroom hoping to catch students vaping.
“Often students will walk by Anthony in groups on their way to the bathroom in order to bait him into walking in to check if anybody is vaping,” said Kim. “I’ve also heard of students dropping their pants to their ankles when Anthony walks in.”
Among high schoolers, staff members on the hunt for students vaping in the restrooms have been met with disdain. Some students have taken to creating memes — doctored images or videos shared on social media as a joke or to convey an idea — warning of Cataldo.
Kim said he saw one meme that parodied an email conversation between Principal Stacey Gross and Cataldo. Another borrowed the lyrics of a rap song, to colorful effect — “we just trying to fiend,” the students lamented.
Kunal Chauhan, the school's study body president, also said the schools have assigned a staff member to regularly check the bathrooms.
Students said school officials have mostly checked the male bathrooms for would-be vapers.
“I haven’t heard of anyone checking the girls room,” said senior Callie McQuilken.
Health class emphasis
Cataldo did not provide comment for this article, instead directing The Press to speak to the high school administration.
Principal Stacey Gross confirmed that the schools have “an increased overall presence regarding vaping … to continue to support the safety and well-being of students.”
She declined to comment on specific security measures, including whether the school has had staff periodically check the bathrooms for students vaping.
Gross said students begin learning about the potential risks associated with vaping as part of freshman health class.
The program includes a guest speaker, who includes a special emphasis on vaping, according to Gross.
“Some of the issues discussed around vaping are the short- and long-term risks of vaping, laws regarding the use and sale of vaping products, how these products are advertised toward youth, and the limited scientific research about the products,” she said.
In February, the freshman class was assigned to create a public service announcement (PSA) about vaping’s risks, Gross said. The PSAs continue to be shown on school televisions and to be tweeted out by the schools, she added.
Despite the added presence against vapes, Chauhan said, vaping remains in favor with teens at the high school.
The devices are small and easy to conceal, he said. Juul, the most popular model among Ridgefield students, looks like an ordinary USB thumb-drive.
“The presence of Juuls in the school is definitely prominent,” said Chauhan.