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Texas Lawmakers Spark Debate With Tough Vaping Penalties In Schools

If you are caught vaping on school grounds in Texas you will be removed from class and sent to a disciplinary alternative school, according to a new state law.

This is already happening to students in North Texas. According to discipline records analyzed by The Dallas Morning News, more than one-fifth of students assigned to such campuses in eight Dallas County districts were there because of e-cigarettes. 

The new law has sparked concerns among education advocates and public health officials who worry about the impact of disciplinary actions on children who need help and not punishment.

Charlie Gagen, Director of Advocacy for Texas at the American Lung Association, emphasized the importance of prioritizing youth education and cessation programs over punitive measures. He told The DMN, “You can’t punish your way out of an addiction issue.”

According to statewide survey data, more than one in 10 high school students in Texas reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days in 2021. This rise in e-cigarette use among minors prompted lawmakers to enact stricter discipline measures.

Usually, students get sent to Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs, or DAEP, for more serious offenses like making terroristic threats, selling drugs, or assaulting an employee.

Other efforts to prevent teen vaping include educational programs like CATCH My Breath and Truth Initiative, which aim to raise awareness about the dangers of e-cigarettes.

“Not all students understand that there’s nicotine or cannabis — drugs — in these devices,” Dr. Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, professor of pediatrics in adolescent medicine at Stanford University told DMN. “They’re still thinking that it’s just flavored water.”

Even the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ed Thompson, hopes lawmakers will reconsider the vaping discipline rule. Thompson will not be returning to the Legislature in 2025.

“I want there to be flexibility for the schools,” he said. “My intent was never to tie anyone’s hands.”

Despite the new law, districts have adopted varying approaches to punishment for vaping violations. While some, like Dallas ISD, have embraced the mandatory alternative school placement, others, such as Houston and Coppell, have opted out through the state’s “District of Innovation” system, which allows districts to create their own rules.

Staff
Staff
Written by RA News staff.

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