Drugs over dinner: How parents can reach students about vaping

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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - "I put $3 million of drugs in my arms," said motivational speaker Micheal DeLeon. "I destroyed my life. I died six times."

Photo Source: KALB

After 12 years in prison, Micheal DeLeon is trying to right his wrongs.

"I had a terrible addiction," DeLeon said. "I got out of prison in 2007 and it was my intention, my purpose, to reach kids. I don't want them to grow up to be me."

He spends his days trying to go back to prisons to talk with youth and visit schools across the country. Lately, he's been talking about vaping.

"I am the number one school presenter in the country," DeLeon said. "I talk to kids in all 50 states about the dangers, and where it is leading with respiratory disorders."

Monday night he focused on letting parents in on what their students may be doing. He had help from several community agencies. RPSO, Rapides Regional Medical Center and the Rapides Parish School board invited DeLeon to speak.

Local school districts have been cracking down on vape possession policies.

During the 2018-19 school year, 75 Rapides Parish middle school and high school students were caught with a vape. This school year there have been 42 vaping incidents. The school district said a third-grader was even caught with a vaping device.

During the 2018-19 Grant Parish school year, 65 students in middle and high school were caught. GPSB said there have only been eight incidents so far this year.

"It is not about just having consequences, it is about bringing awareness," said RPSB Assistant Superintendent Clyde Washington.

Washington said students now frequently hear messages about vaping dangers. RPSB has also revised its policies and posted 'vape free' campus signs. This year GPSB required junior high and high school students to have clear backpacks.

"We've had seminars at schools," Washington said. "We are doing everything possible to bring awareness to our kids and also to our families."

DeLeon wants parents to get comfortable talking about it. BJ's and Wildwood Pizza will now place a 'drugs over dinner' stickers on their pizza boxes, to open conversation.

"Parents just do not understand," DeLeon said. "Thought it was flavored water, safer than cigarettes. That is all untrue."

He hopes to keep his past from repeating itself.

"This will become the number one death in America, I promise you that," DeLeon said.

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