Texas Schools Crack Down on Youth Vaping with Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs

HOUSTON, TX – Since the implementation of a new Texas law aimed at curbing youth vaping, hundreds of students in Houston-area school districts have been sent to disciplinary alternative education programs, a move that some school administrators and advocates are questioning as too harsh. House Bill 114, which went into effect on September 1, requires public schools to remove any student caught with an e-cigarette and send them to a separate center designated for students in serious trouble.

According to data collected by the Chronicle, in the largest five school districts in the Houston region, over 1,300 students were disciplined for using, possessing, or selling e-cigarettes from September to December. While the majority of these students were sent to disciplinary alternative education programs as required by the law, some received in- or out-of-school suspensions. Houston ISD, the largest district in the state, reported that nearly 370 students were placed in disciplinary alternative education programs for vaping during that period.

Critics argue that removing a student from their home campus is too severe a consequence. Joseph Sam, a spokesperson for Houston ISD, stated that placing students in disciplinary alternative education programs disrupts their learning and contributes to lower graduation rates. Celeste Barretto Milligan, an HISD parent and member of the District Advisory Committee, believes that the mandatory, severe consequence is unjust for what she considers a common mistake and fears it could contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline.

However, supporters of the law, including Representative Ed Thompson, R-Pearland, who introduced the vaping measure, argue that it provides schools with the ability to deal with vaping internally and keep students from gaining a criminal record for a one-time mistake. Thompson hopes that the law will alleviate the burden on law enforcement agencies and schools by giving them the power to impose sufficient punishments on students without involving the criminal justice system.

The debate around the Texas law highlights the broader issue of youth vaping and the need for prevention, intervention, and cessation resources. Vaping devices, easily hidden and disguised, have become prevalent among students. Melissa Igo, director of coastal coalitions at the Bay Area Council on Drugs and Alcohol, emphasizes the importance of addressing the underlying issues that drive young people to vape through restorative practices and educational programs.

In conclusion, the new Texas law aimed at deterring youth vaping has resulted in hundreds of students in Houston-area school districts being sent to disciplinary alternative education programs. while some argue that this consequence is too severe and disrupts students’ learning, others believe it provides schools with the tools to handle the issue internally and prevent the involvement of law enforcement. As the debate continues, the focus remains on the need for prevention and support resources to address the underlying reasons behind youth vaping.