Texas law on vapes in schools has alternative school punishment

The law requires schools to place students in alternative schooling or a disciplinary program, but some schools are enforcing the law in different ways.

AUSTIN, Texas — Vaping products can be found on any corner, in someone’s hand or their pocket. 

They’re also prominent in Central Texas schools. 

Last summer, the Texas Legislature passed HB 114, which sets a mandatory punishment for students caught with vaping products.

The law requires schools to place those students in alternative schooling or a disciplinary program if they are caught with vape products.

RELATED: Austin ISD updates how it will respond to vaping on campus

“It’s definitely something we’ve seen a dramatic rise in the last 15 years, and it’s something we’re really trying to educate our students and stakeholders about,” Zac Oldham said.

Oldham is Round Rock ISD’s Westwood area superintendent and is in charge of 11 schools of the 56 that make up the district. 

Oldham says vaping is a nationwide problem, and that kids have been caught with vaping products in halls, classrooms, restrooms and more around campuses.

“It’s not good at any level, but it’s all the way down to second, third grade we’ve seen that,” Oldham explained. “So yeah, it’s something that, you know, it’s dangerous.”

Oldham says his district began enforcing the law in August 2023, banning e-cigarettes in or around schools and at school events. Vaping products with THC were already banned.

“So, non-THC vapes on campus, or within 300 feet of a campus, we’re required to place in a DAP,” Oldham said.

DAP refers to a Disciplinary Alternative Education Program, an alternative school students are sent to. The Round Rock Opportunity Center is one of two DAP’s in the district.

Oldham says discipline is administered on a case by case basis.

“Usually, [a] five day placement. That’s a first time offense,” Oldham explained. “Obviously, if, you know, if they’re found with several and an intent to distribute or something like that, it could carry a lengthier stay.”

Those caught with THC vaping products get 30 days.

RELATED: It will soon be illegal to use cartoons or certain images to sell vaping products in Texas

Oldham says administrators want to make sure they’re educating students on the dangers of vaping.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the vapes are reusable and refillable, and sometimes they can come with, not just nicotine or THC, but also they can have, you know, different chemicals that can be super, super dangerous to our students. Things like fentanyl,” Oldham said. 

While students are at alternative schools, they make research projects designed to educate them about vaping. 

“We have some amazing counselors, and teachers, and administrators at our alternative campuses, who do a lot of work just trying to educate them,” Oldham said. 

Round Rock ISD has sent around 100 kids to alternative schools out of around 46,000 in the district. Oldham says they rarely see students that reoffend.

Oldham says he’s glad there’s legislation to help with the crackdown on vaping products in schools. 

“I think they’re just trying to do the right thing to make sure our students are educated, to be held accountable with that. Accountability also comes with educating our students on those dangers, as well and that’s what we’re trying to work hard on,” Oldham said. 

Some other schools KVUE spoke with are also Districts of Innovation, which is a designation given if districts meet certain performance requirements that can allow schools to have exemptions to TEA laws and rules to meet their schools’ needs. How they approach consequences for having vaping products in schools can fall in the category.

Schools in Central Texas are enforcing the law in different ways.

Austin ISD’s policy states that on the student’s first offense, students get campus-based support and education….

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