An increase in middle school suspensions in Lynn, Massachusetts, has been brought on by an increase in vaping, school officials say.
Suspensions are down overall in Lynn, but in the city's middle schools, they are up about 60%. Officials are now trying to develop a plan for change.
Students as young as sixth grade are using e-cigarettes and other vaping products at school.
"I've seen, like, a lot of kids doing it in the bathrooms," said Greisi Velasquez, an eighth-grader at Pickering Middle School. "They just get their friends around to cover them so no one sees them."
"Everywhere, they do it right out in front of the school, as soon as they get out of school," said parent Mike Monac.
"They need to be educated about it," said grandmother Kathy Compton. "When I was a teenager, I smoked, but it was not a big deal back then, and we weren't educated about the dangers of it until much later in life … By that time, you're addicted, and it's a lot tougher to stop then."
Velazquez says the blame begins at home.
"When the teacher, like, tries to tell them not to do it, they don't listen," she said. "They just say their parents don't care, their parents don't do anything, so why do the teachers have to tell them to stop doing it?"
The school committee is looking for a way to bring the numbers down and thinks education, rather than punishment, is the key.
At the high school, a program called PASS neglects to suspend students, instead putting them in a setting where they can get the tools, resources and support they need.
"I think parents and families and the student support system are partners in [addressing the problem]," said Jared Nicholson of the Lynn School Committee.