EL PASO, Texas - Weeks into the school year, El Paso-area school districts are alarmed at the growing number of students who face serious legal consequences for vaping THC concentrates.
"They're good kids," said Jim Vasquez, the Director of People and Parent Services for the Ysleta Independent School District. "The bulk of these have never been in any disciplinary trouble in their entire school careers."
In the '18 - '19 school year, Vasquez said 29 students were referred to the district's 'Juvenile Justice Alternative Program. More than half of those students faced charges for vaping.
In the state of Texas, possessing less than half an ounce of marijuana might be a misdemeanor, but possessing any amount of THC 'concentrates,' (including the THC oil in e-cigarettes) is a felony.
"You're going to wind up in the legal system and going to have a charge on your record that will follow you," said Socorro Independent School District Police Chief Jose Castorena. "It will follow you for the course of your life."
In the '17 - '18 school year, there were 10 students charged with felonies related to vaping, Castorena said. In the '18 - '19 school year, the district had approximately 40 felony cases.
Socorro ISD is working to educate students on the consequences of vaping by airing a public safety announcement at football games this season.
More than 2.1 million middle and high school students were e-cigarette users in 2017, according to the United States Food and Drug Administration.
"If you possess it, you will be arrested and charged," the PSA states. "Team SISD has a zero tolerance policy for drugs on our campuses."