Upper Dublin, Pa. (WTXF) - A Montgomery County school district is banning flash drives--the reason district officials say they look too much like an e-cigarette brand.
"I think it's the district trying to do something right for the kids," said Michelle O'Toole. She supports the Upper Dublin School District's recent ban on flash drives in all of its schools. O'Toole has two children that attend the high school.
"Kids are aware of it. Kids know about it. It's probably as deep into it a middle school," she said. She's talking about a vaping device called Juul that's popular among teens and resembles a flash drive. In some cases, students were plugging the Juul vaping device into their computers to charge it.
Upper Dublin School Superintendent Deborah Wheeler said in a statement, "We became aware that some Upper Dublin students were using their Chromebooks to charge Juuling devices while in school. Because the nature of a Chromebook removes the need for external data storage devices we are satisfied that forbidding their use will remove the possibility of charging a Juuling device in school."
"It's the size, the concealability of it and being able to trick the teachers that they have a flash drive right in front of them. Meanwhile it's their vape," said Steve Schmitz. He owns the shop Make It Vapor in Upper Dublin and says he doesn't sell the product but says it's in high demand.
"I get phone calls all the time and it seems like all of the phone calls are from teenagers," said Schmitz. He says Juul is so popular he doesn't think the district banning flash drives to remove any confusion for staff is the solution.
"They're still going to be going to school with their vapes in their pocket," said Schmitz. Chuck Kinsley says what the district is doing is a good thing to get a handle on vaping and drugs but he doesn't think vaping is the bigger problem.
"I think that's a much smaller issue than the vaping cigarettes themselves. I think you'd probably find 2 or 3 of these flash drives in the school and 100 vaping cigarettes," said Kinsley.
Superintendent Wheeler says only one student has been found charging the Juuling device since the ban on flash drives. She also adds that any students who has a special need to use a plug in device for school can get permission from their teacher. She says the issue of vaping and e-cigarettes has been of considerable concern among parents.
A Juul spokesperson released the following statement:
"JUUL Labs' mission is to eliminate cigarette smoking by offering existing adult smokers a true alternative to combustible cigarettes. JUUL is not intended for anyone else. We strongly condemn the use of our product by minors, and it is in fact illegal to sell our product to minors. No minor should be in possession of a JUUL product.
Our goal is to further reduce the number of minors who possess or use tobacco products, including vapor products, and to find ways to keep young people from ever trying these products. We approach this with a combination of education, enforcement, technology and partnership with others who are focused on this issue, including lawmakers, educators and our business partners."