ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Abilene ISD has opted out of immediate alternative school for students caught vaping on campus, which is mandated by the state beginning next month. Instead, the district has come up with its own disciplinary plan.

The Abilene ISD School board met Monday to discuss a possible district response to Texas House Bill 114, a new piece of legislation that will go into effect statewide on September 1. Under this new law, any student caught with a vaping device would immediately be sent to the Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP).

In the past, this immediate action was reserved only for students caught with THC vaping devices.

“Certainly, there is a difference between a nicotine vape and a THC vape. So, I think there needs to be a difference in how we handle each one of those,” recommended Abilene ISD Associate Superintendent of Student services, Dr. Gustavo Villanueva.

At the board meeting, Dr. Villanueva requested an exemption from the bill for all AISD campuses, stating that of middle and high school students in the 2022-2023 school year, 126 were sent to DAEP for possessing a THC vape device, while 238 students were given In School Suspension (ISS) for possessing a nicotine vaping device throughout the district. He said folding both of those groups into one would be an unneeded burden on the DAEP system.

“We prioritize students who pose a safety issue on our campus… And that would overwhelm our DAEP,” Dr. Villanueva said.

If needed, the DAEP staff and classrooms can be expanded to accommodate a larger student population, but Dr. Villanueva told the board the disciplinary action taken on students with non-THC vapes has been effective in years past.

“In School Suspension has been effective in terms of multiple offenses for nicotine vapes,” explained Dr. Villanueva. Meaning, Abilene ISD schools have seen far fewer second and third offences once a student was given ISS. In the new plan, which the board voted to approve Monday, would actually add disciplinary steps to the 3-strike system.

Current matrix for Nicotine vapes at AISD schools:

  • First offence- campus discipline
    • Parent conference
    • Vape and drug education requirement
    • 3 days ISS
    • Delivery could result in greater consequences (additional ISS or DAEP)
  • Second offense- campus discipline
    • Parent conference
    • 5 days ISS
    • Delivery could result in greater consequences including DAEP
  • Third and additional offenses-
    • Parent conference
    • Additional days in ISS/Discretionary Placement in DAEP (shorter term)
    • Delivery could result in greater consequences

Under the new system, the penalty for possession of a THC device on a school campus or at a school sanctioned function remains the same. The student is given the minimum required days in DAEP and due to the illegal nature of THC, the incident is reported to local authorities.

While many schools in Texas have adopted the guidelines put forth by HB 114, Dr. Villanueva said this exemption will allow AISD campuses to better utilize discipline as it works for its specific needs.

“We want the flexibility to be able to do that at the local level, rather than the state telling us exactly what we need to do,” added Dr. Villanueva.

The board passed this 6-1 vote on Monday, putting it into effect immediately. Dr Villanueva told the board the district will continue to monitor the effectiveness of this plan and alter course as needed.