High school removing washroom doors to snuff out vaping

At least one Ottawa high school is tackling the problem of students vaping in its washrooms by removing their doors.

Students may also face fines, warns principal of St. Joseph High School in Barrhaven

The principal of St. Joseph High School on Greenbank Road says the doors will be removed from all but two of the school's washrooms. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

At least one Ottawa high school is attempting to snuff out the problem of students vaping in its washrooms by removing their doors.

Like tobacco smoking, vaping is verboten on school property in Ontario, but some students are flouting the ban by puffing their vape pens or e-cigarettes in the relative sanctuary of the WC.

In his weekly blog, Don Murphy, the principal of St. Joseph High School in Barrhaven, announced the doors are coming off all but two of the school's bathrooms.

"As you may have read in the media lately, vaping indoors has become an issue in many Ottawa-area schools, and St. Joe's is no exception," Murphy wrote.

"In order to address this problem, washroom doors will soon be removed from most of our washrooms so that vaping can be detected more readily and washrooms can be entered quickly."

Students have taken to puffing on vape pens and e-cigarettes in school washrooms across the city. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

As for protecting students' privacy, Murphy wrote the washrooms in question have interior barriers similar to those in airports, malls and arenas, blocking passers-by from peering inside.

The doors to two bathrooms near the school's main entrance will remain in place, but staff will keep a close eye on them for illicit vaping.

Fines possible

"We have taken measures to ensure school washrooms remain places where students feel safe; where they are not going to be subjected to second-hand smoke," wrote Ottawa Catholic School Board spokesperson Mardi de Kemp to CBC.

If removing the washroom doors isn't enough to deter students at St. Joseph, Murphy has let it be known his staff is prepared to file complaints with the city of Ottawa's bylaw department.

"Essentially, if a student is caught, a form is filled out, by-law is called, and the fine is issued." Murphy wrote in his blog. 

The fine for vaping on school property, indoors or outdoors, is $305, but de Kemp said that's a last resort.

Students caught vaping will initially face warnings, extra assignments and detention. Offenders will also be offered counselling, de Kemp said.

At least one school in Ottawa's Catholic board is having the entrance doors to school washrooms removed to crack down on students vaping. 9:17

'Kinda weird'

As he arrived for classes Wednesday morning, Grade 12 student Jayden Simmonds reacted to the school's decision with a shrug. 

"Kinda weird, but at my old school there was no doors on the washroom," Simmonds said. 

His classmates weren't taking the news so well, he noted. "I find most [students] are kind of mad, kind of shocked by the decision."

Students at a St. Joseph High School in Barrhaven have learned their school will take new steps to prevent teens from vaping on the property. 0:45

Ty Draper, also in Grade 12 at St. Joseph, said the move didn't go over well when it was announced at a school assembly.

"Some students were upset about it more so than others," said Draper. "Some people thinks it's an invasion of privacy, which I see, but I don't find it that big of a deal."

Ty Draper, also in Grade 12 student at St. Joseph High School, said the decision to remove bathroom doors has upset some students who view it as an invasion of privacy. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Washroom doors at Ottawa's largest school board are staying firmly in place, at least for now.

Ottawa-Carleton District School Board spokesperson Sharlene Hunter told CBC none of the board's schools has removed washroom doors, nor are there any plans to do so.