‘It’s an epidemic:’ South Plains schools working ahead of new anti-vaping law

Published: Aug. 22, 2023 at 10:59 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The consequences are getting stricter for vaping in Texas schools. Starting in September, House Bill 114 requires districts to automatically place students caught with vapes in alternative schooling.

Educators in the South Plains area are already working to handle the growing problem.

“The house bill has not really changed anything for Lubbock-Cooper. We’ve had this in place for over 10 years,” Jay Whitefield, the executive director of student services at Lubbock-Cooper ISD, said.

At Lubbock-Cooper, students who get caught with a vape, or selling one, face a minimum 30-day placement in the Disciplinary Alternative Education Program, or DAEP.

Whitefield says those consequences increase with each instance, and if the vape contains THC. Students in DAEP are separated from their classmates, cannot participate in extracurricular activities, attend school events, or even ride the bus.

“So basically, it’s school without all the fun things, without the extracurricular activities. And while those students are in DAEP, they do take classes over vaping where they learn about the dangers,” Whitefield said.

In Brownfield, the school district has had a mandatory DAEP policy for two years. Students caught vaping the first time get 15 days in the alternative program. The punishment goes up to 30 and 45 days for additional offenses.

“The new law is not why we started ours, but like I said, it’s really helped us turn it around, because kids know whenever something happens, there’s a consequence. And they they don’t want to be off campus. They don’t want to be away from their friends, and so our numbers definitely went down,” Brownfield ISD Superintendent Chris Smith said.

Brownfield ISD is taking additional measures to keep drugs out of the classroom, including hiring their own detection dog, Cubby. His officer says he is trained in detecting meth, TCH, cocaine, heroin, MDMA, nicotine and firearms.

The district is also installing a HALO system this fall, a sensor that can detect vapes, smoke and THC in spots students usually think they can hide. Smith says vape producers are making hiding them easier for students, as they come in the shape of pens and highlighters.

Whitefield says you also never know what could be in them.

“There could be THC, there’s new things out there that I don’t fully understand. There’s Delta-8. There’s all these dangers lurking that that could pose a health risk to our students,” Whitefield said.

Both administrators emphasized how important it is that parents get involved in the fight.

“Be active in their kids lives, even though they’re not going to like it. Know who they’re messaging, know what they’re doing, know what they’re buying,” Smith said.

“I just urge parents to take an active role as well, you know. Look in their students backpack and work with the schools. I mean, we have to be partners to stop this,” Whitefield said.