A felony charge could have a long-term negative impact on a teen’s future. Unfortunately, teens who use e-cigarettes or vape pens in Texas schools could end up facing felony charges. The court may place those who are 17 or older into the adult criminal justice system. Because the vaping trend is relatively new, Texas state law does not provide much guidance to school officials as to how to handle teens who use e-cigarettes.
However, with the alarming pattern of young people developing life-threatening respiratory illnesses from vaping, Texas school districts are in panic mode trying to deter students from the illicit practice. This has resulted in disciplinary methods that are often quite harsh and sometimes inconsistent. At times, this includes reporting the student to authorities, which can result in criminal charges.
Degree of severity
Originally intended as a means to help people quit smoking, the lack of regulation around vaping has made it a popular method for teens to illicitly use nicotine or illegal drugs. However, as a rash of severe respiratory illness related to vaping swept the United States in 2019, school officials became frightened and started cracking down on enforcement of anti-vaping policies.
This crackdown sometimes means involving law enforcement in anti-vaping measures. If authorities have reason to believe that a student’s vape pen contains illegal drugs, the student could face felony charges.
Lack of consistency
State laws about illegal drugs on public school campuses can be somewhat confusing. As it relates to vaping, they are often applied inconsistently. Some schools automatically expel students caught with vape pens that test positive for illegal drugs. The rationale is a state law that requires expulsion for possessing, selling or using controlled substances on campus.
However, the same law also says that the district should consider mitigating factors before the expulsion. Further complicating the matter, some schools do not have on-site testing capabilities to determine if the vape pen contained an illegal substance.
Following expulsions, some districts send students to Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Programs alongside high-needs students with a history of committing serious offenses. The crackdown on students believed to be vaping illegal drugs has put a strain on these facilities.