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Legacy Press

The Student News Site of Klein Collins High School

Legacy Press

The Student News Site of Klein Collins High School

Legacy Press

Texas creates new laws for those in education

Texas House bills, turnout, and tigers: are state-level politics going over students’ heads?

As summer transitions into early September, students sink back into their academic routines. A new school year promises new courses and classmates, but still the same old Juul-junkies infesting the common restrooms. 

The increasing spread of the vaping issue is why the 88th Texas Legislature came in with House Bill 114, signed and effective immediately. Depending on which side of the bathroom stall you stand, Texas House Bill 114 can be seen as a godsend or a nightmare. 

Texas House Bill 114, in layman’s terms, mandates DAEP (otherwise known as the Annex) admission for any student who has used, possessed, been under the influence of, given, or sold vaping materials while at school or within 300 feet of the school. The bill also suggests a drug awareness program for the offending student. 

To some, this particular piece of legislation may seem harsh due to its inflexibility and lack of room for a lesson to be learned before intense disciplinary action is taken. Junior and president of Girls Learn International Noelle Dujunco interpreted this piece of legislation with an individualistic perspective. Although she sees the value of learning lessons, her main concern is the implementation of possibly counterproductive educational circumstances for these students.

“It’s fine because it’s like, if you don’t learn something about it, you might repeat it,” Dujunco said. “I don’t know about moving schools because that might not be accessible to people. It might make education harder for them.”

When asked about the same House Bill, senior Maisa Ahmad offered insight that focuses more on the big-picture. As a debate club member and aspiring attorney, Ahmad considers herself someone deeply concerned about legislation and staying politically informed. She believes that many Texas legislators want to send a message about vaping products that might not be getting through to students.

“Legislators, Texas ones specifically, have a very strong bias towards [marijuana],” Ahmad said. “They’re just trying to make a difference. I don’t know if it’s working.”

Not all students are as interested in learning about politics as Ahmad. However, juniors and seniors now are beginning to reach the voting age, and talks of the 2024 presidential election are slowly seeping into the media. If ever there was a time for upperclassmen to understand the political atmosphere, it is now. 

Teenage voting participation has been improving in recent years, as seen in the last presidential election. About half of the young adult population, ages 18-29, cast their ballot in 2020. This was the most impressive turnout for the age group in years. That being said, whether or not students are aware of the decisions, registration, and responsibility associated with state-level elections is another story. However, this possible lack of knowledge may not be specific to students. Dual Credit US History (DCUSH) teacher Courtney Cox understands that this is a common issue for people of all ages.

“I think high school students struggle to stay politically engaged or informed for the same reasons that adults do,” Cox said. “American government is complex, and I think there is a lot of confusion for people in terms of how government, especially local government, operates.”

DCUSH is often the course that introduces students to the foundation of the federal government, accompanied with college-level rigor. This is beneficial to students’ future if they desire to understand their full responsibility as a citizen.  Dujunco believes, however, that knowledge of state representatives is just as, if not more, vital to the process of creating effective legislation. 

“I mean, our first day in DCUSH, I didn’t even know who our representatives were,” Dujunco said. “I think maybe if everyone knew more about state legislation, then change could happen a lot faster.”

Texas House Bill 900, otherwise known as the READER Act, is another example of state-level legislation which directly impacts students. The READER Act, which has also been passed, prohibits books with sexually explicit content to be provided in public school libraries. This law has created plenty of controversy among parents, students, and educators alike across the state. 

“Censorship, for sure, with, like, the types of books students can read,” Ahmad said. 

No matter the opinion on this particular Texas House Bill, it is clear that state legislation has the ability to facilitate rapid change, whether it is favorable or unfavorable. The Texas Legislature is always going to keep on going, with or without truly representing its people. Cox notices that this change may not happen as frequently due to the lack of focus on local and state politics compared to national politics.

“Americans typically are aware of national politics but pay little attention to local/state government,” Cox said. “The reality is that local and state government hold a lot of power in our day-to-day lives. A lot of my gen Z students seem to think in a global mindset.”

If state-level government should reflect the desires of the people, including students, then students must be informed. Where does the caricaturist teenage political thickheadedness stem from, though? Dujunco believes it may have something to do with jam-packed schedules and the overwhelming volume of politically charged media.

“It might be like, maybe you’re too busy,” Dujunco said. “Like for me growing up. I really liked reading about history and the news and stuff, but now I have, like, so much schoolwork and extracurriculars. I don’t really have time to like, you know, do a daily news stream or something. So yeah, I think that might be like one of the major causes. And then a second cause might be because like, the media is all around us and stuff. Sometimes you just, like, choose to shut it out. Because, like, it can be stressful like hearing about wildfires and like global warming and stuff. Like you don’t want to think about that stuff every day, you know?”

Ahmad, who attended a legal academy over the summer, was able to make connections with judges in the Harris County attorney’s office, as well as with the non-profit organization Move Texas, which both might offer methods to bridge the gap for students who are not in the know about state-level elections.

“They support students in learning how to vote and registering for voting,” Ahmad said. “And then also a lot of judges in the Harris County Attorney’s office, they’re really supportive in teaching students and have a lot of mentorship programs where they’re making resources accessible to kids turning 18 and even higher ages, who don’t understand how to vote, they help those students out with that.”

As these kinds of resources become more readily available, students might begin to realize the capacity that the state government holds to cause change. Cox has found, however, that the most crucial element of political change, however, goes beyond knowledge of voting zones and researching representatives.

“The most common misconception held by high school students is that they don’t hold power, or they think that their advocacy won’t work,” Cox said. “Gen Z students are passionate and want to make an impact. I always try to teach my students that they hold power and historical change has happened due to student movements. Students do hold political and economic power, but students need inspiration and organization to use it.”

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About the Contributor
Emma Bohmann
Emma Bohmann, Editor and Reporter
Emma is a senior (class of 2025!), and this is her third year on the staff and second year as an editor! She likes reading and listening to podcasts, and she hopes you enjoy everything the website has to offer!