Letter to Families

Dear Arkport Central School District Families,

I am writing to you regarding a serious concern and to ask for your assistance.

In the past two months, the faculty, staff and students of the Arkport Central School District have had to evacuate school twice due to fire alarms triggered by students vaping. These evacuations interrupted the school day and classroom instruction, sending more than 600 individuals outside during cold, winter weather, which only serves to magnify the effect a few students’ choices had on the majority of the school and local community. 

It is critical to note that every fire alarm prompts a response by the Arkport Fire Department, which is composed entirely of volunteers. When an alarm is triggered, these individuals are pulled away from their homes. Alarms caused by vaping are a misuse of community resources, making responders unavailable to help in an actual fire or emergency situation.

To address this situation, the district is taking a two-pronged approach. First, we are asking Arkport parents and guardians for assistance in educating your student(s) about the dangers of vaping. Second, we are undertaking precautions and adhering to consequences for purposely triggering a school district fire alarm by vaping.

What parents and families can do

The dangers of vaping are well documented. Over the past decade, the Arkport Central School District has worked to inform students of the potential harms from vaping, however many students still consider it a safe alternative to smoking. The district will continue to educate students about making healthy personal choices, but as I previously stated, the choice to vape by some students has had a considerable impact on others.

A valuable and respected resource for families to refer to is Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. An important measure caregivers can take is to talk to your student. Even if your student does not use tobacco products, an open and frank conversation regarding tobacco and vape use will help reinforce messages learned at school while clearing up any misconceptions students may believe about vaping.

What the district is doing

Arkport schools have posted signage in all bathrooms detailing the consequences of a student triggering a fire alarm. Students that cause an alarm to go off will be subject to an automatic five-day suspension. The suspension will be followed by a superintendent’s hearing to determine if a longer suspension or other remediation is necessary. In addition to the automatic five-day suspension, law enforcement will investigate the intentional triggering of a fire alarm. 

While it is an important objective for the district to help students stop smoking or vaping and to prevent others from starting — and we will continue to educate students about the dangers of vaping — our primary responsibility is to ensure the safety of every student in the school district. It is our hope that students who vape understand the severity of the consequences they may face and make the choice not to vape on school grounds. 

I would be remiss if I did not thank the Arkport faculty and staff who helped to quickly identify the source of the fire alarms; their diligence brought students back into the building safely. Of course, much appreciation is owed to the Arkport Fire Department for their continued dedication to keeping our students, faculty and staff safe.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation,

Jesse Harper

Superintendent of Schools