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Head of School Blog


January 25, 2019

Dear Parents,

For a while now, I have been planning to write a blog post about vaping; the act of inhaling a vapor produced by an electronic vaporizer or e-cigarette. I've been gathering information from various sources and communicating with other heads of schools to gain a deeper understanding of this harmful epidemic. To be honest, this is not something that I am familiar with, but I do know it is dangerous to all students and schools. I have had some Oak Hall parents tell me they believe their child is struggling with possible vaping addiction. While any form of vaping is always strictly prohibited by students on campus, we have, unfortunately, experienced some of our students engaging in this behavior as it is easy to conceal.

I read this article and felt it conveyed the message I was hoping to send.

Jan. 18, 2019, 4:06 PM EST

By Maggie Fox and Lauren Dunn 

Vaping first sent this teen to the ER, then into rehab.

Doctors worry that teens are getting far too much nicotine from e-cigarettes.

Luka Kinard knew his vaping habit was out of control when it started costing him $150 a week.

“I was selling my clothes,” Kinard, a 15-year-old high school sophomore, said. “I would get shoes, sell them, go out get cheap shoes, sell them. I was doing anything and everything to get money.”

His parents noticed when his grades started plummeting.

Luka Kinard, 15, of High Point, N.C., went through 40 days of rehabilitation therapy to help him kick a nicotine addiction fueled by e-cigarette use. Courtesy of Kinard family.

“He went from being a straight-A student to an F student,” Luka’s mother, Kelly Kinard, told NBC News. “(It was) a very rapid decline in grades. His behavior became explosive. He was very angry and it just wasn’t him.”

Luka stopped his boy scouting activities, stopped fishing and spent all his time locked away in his room. He was vaping.

Luka is part of what the Food and Drug Administration and the Surgeon General call an epidemic of e-cigarette use. On Friday, FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb threatened to take e-cigarettes off the market if rates of teen usage continue to rise in 2019.

As with most teens who are taking up the habit, it was the slender, easy-to-conceal Juul device that really got Luka hooked.

“The flavor was better than the taste of a cigarette. Also the buzz was a lot better,” he said. But it was a pricey habit.

“When I started spending $17 every four days or every day it was getting to a problem,” he said. “I realized I was spending $150 on pods in a week, and I noticed like this was getting out of control.”

What brought matters to a head was when he had a seizure.

“He was at his girlfriend's house and an ambulance was called and he ended up in at the emergency room,” Kelly Kinard said. She knew it was the Juuling that had done it.

“We followed up with the pediatrician, cardiologist and neurologist, and we couldn't get anyone to listen to us when we told them the seizure was preceded by Juuling,” she said. “I found on the internet that it should be treated like a substance abuse issue. That helped when I called the insurance company and told them we need a referral for a substance abuse treatment.”

The High Point, N.C. teen ended up spending 40 days in an addiction rehabilitation program before he was able to kick his habit.


This makes sense to Dr. Sharon Levy, director of the Adolescent Substance Use and Addiction Program at Harvard Medical School.

“We've seen a real influx in the number of phone calls that we're getting for kids who need substance use evaluations and, remarkably, we're seeing a big increase in the number of kids who are coming in specifically to be evaluated for nicotine and Juuling problems,” Levy told NBC News.

“We're seeing kids that seem to be getting a much higher nicotine level in their blood and that’s causing a completely different picture when they come in.”

Other teams have found this, also, and the FDA is trying to crack down on sales of e-cigarettes to teens and young adults because they do deliver a much higher dose of nicotine than traditional burned cigarettes, Juul products, in particular, don’t offer a way to dial down the dose of nicotine-bearing vape fluid n the same way that other devices do.

The extra hit of nicotine can have especially strong effects on young bodies, Levy said.

“Kids are coming in with problems like difficulty in focusing, common symptoms of withdrawal, things like headaches, sometimes fatigue, stomach aches — which might be a symptom of nicotine toxicity or poisoning in some of them,” she said.

“We've had kids who come in and say that they can’t concentrate in school, that they need to leave the classroom, they need to sneak out to the bathroom so that they can hit their Juul, or that they need to go to the nurse's office because they just need to lie down,” Levy added.

“That's something we didn't see in use of cigarettes. This is very concerning. This is really uncharted territory and we don't know what use of nicotine in this way is doing to the developing adolescent brain.”


“We have treated kids with things like nicotine replacement,” Levy said. “In some ways, it's a little ironic … but we're doing that and it seems to be helping for some of the kids.”

Too much nicotine is just like too much of any addictive substance, Levy said. “All substances of abuse, whether it's heroin or alcohol or marijuana, they are all causing firing in the same part of the brain that’s called the pleasure and reward center,” she said. “That’s what makes those substances feel good to people who use them.”

Rehab worked for Luka, who is back to normal, his mother said.

“We first noticed a change after three weeks when we could finally have a conversation,” she said. “We were allowed to talk to him every day, and we had our first conversation in 15 months.”

Luka is relieved, also. “I'm going back to scout meetings every Monday,” he said. “I'm going on a scout trip soon, so I'm taking it as a learning experience.”


Looking back, he can see what happened. At first, he just wanted to fit in.

“Especially when you're in high school, you're a freshman, and you see a junior or a senior using it and you want to do what the older people are doing,” he said.

Juuling looked especially attractive. “It was better than smoking cigarettes for me because, you know, the smell, when you walk into a room the odor isn't as potent and not everybody is looking at you,” Luka said.

And when his behavior started to change, he blamed his family and teachers instead of his nicotine habit.

“I thought that everybody else was making me change. I didn't think it was smoking or anything like that — I thought it was just the fact that the world is against me, so I should be against the world.”

Kelly Kinard’s advice to other parents: Pay attention. “They need to react quickly. And they need to get treatment for their kids as soon as possible,” she said.

Latest Blog Post

Welcome from Dr. James Hutchins, Head of School

Welcome to our school website! The website will share with you the wonderful opportunities and developments at Oak Hall school.

Oak Hall is a vibrant school where students are motivated to achieve endless possibilities. Students are at the heart of every decision we make. At Oak Hall, we believe students should be active in the learning process, not just bystanders. Through our engaging teaching and learning process, we want students to develop the characteristics and skills for effective learning and life.

Oak Hall is a family community. We believe that education is a partnership between home and school and regard you as an active partner. As a school with a rich history, we are not complacent. We are committed to providing the best experience and inspirational environment for our students and families.

While we hope the website provides a snapshot of our wonderful school, we invite you to visit campus and experience first-hand what we have to offer.

What is character and why does it matter?

My mother always said, "James, character is what you do when nobody is watching." As a young man desiring to make my mother proud, I would always ask myself, "Would my mom approve of this behavior?" Now, I would be lying if I said I always did the right thing and that mom always approved of my actions. That just isn't reality. However, having those thoughts in the back of my mind did keep me out of trouble a lot.

So, what really is character? Simply stated, character is what a person really is. Abraham Lincoln once said, "Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing." Reputation is what others think of you, which may or may not be true, but your character is who you really are. Character is the collection of your moral and ethical assets, and thus is the result of the decisions you make. Undeniably, we make mistakes. I am not saying you have bad character just because you make a bad choice. Far too often we confuse character with flawlessness. Instead, it is a constant drive to try to do the right thing. When a mistake is made, you work to get back on the right path. 

Why do I bring this up? At Oak Hall, we strive to incorporate character development into everything we do; whether Mrs. Mills is helping Lower School students learn to say, "excuse me" and "thank you," Coach Fuhr teaching the idea of "There is no 'I' in team," or Mr. Jackson giving a one-on-one motivational "I know you can do it. I have faith in you" speech. We are stressing the idea that character counts in everything we do. The type of character you have is your choice. This is why it was once said that, "Your character is the sum total of your life choices."

Together, we have the most important job in the world: shaping the hearts and minds of our students. Some say we are in a character crisis in our country. Character grows, or it erodes. Let's not grow weary in the work we have to do. Let's continue to work together and help our students develop strong character and learn to do what is right when nobody is watching.