Have the adults running our schools become bereft of shame? How can this be justified? Reports the Houston Chronicle ("Writing on school wall gets Katy sixth grader pulled," 7-7):
So, the DA doesn't think the offense should (or will) be prosecuted as a felony, but the school substitutes its own judgment and sends her to the same alternative school where they send actually dangerous kids. Clearly the school THINKS of her behavior as felonious (at least, that's their argument) whether she's prosecuted that way or not. Personally I think of her behavior as utterly typical of every sixth grade girl I've ever known.
Shelby Sendelbach, a sixth-grader in the Katy Independent School District, was read her rights, ticketed and punished with a mandatory four-month assignment to an alternative school because she wrote "I love Alex" on a gymnasium wall with a baby blue Sharpie.
The graffiti offense is a Level 4 infraction in the district's discipline plan, along with making terroristic threats, possessing dangerous drugs, and assaulting with bodily injury. Only a Level 5 — for murder, possessing firearms, committing aggravated or sexual assault, arson or other felonies — is more severe. ...
The Harris County district attorney's office declined to prosecute the case as a felony. But school district spokesman Steve Stanford said the district is following a state law that requires mandatory removal to a disciplinary alternative education school for such an offense.
The district's discipline plan complies with the Texas Education Code. Under it, a district can remove a student who commits a crime that is punishable as a felony.
Is school discipline worth this? Does it actually create a better learning environment? And who will learn in this environment, if every 6th grade girl with a crush and a Sharpie is removed from school?
For my part, I recall carving such missives into desks and the occasional wall with a pocket knife I carried to school every day from third grade on. If schools and state law consider this girl a felon and bounce her out of class, I honestly doubt I could ever have made it through under the current regime.
Katy school officials defend their decision by insisting it was "legal" under state law, implying it might even have been required (a CYA moment if I ever heard one). But who cares? The much more important question is whether what they did was right. And it was not. It was petty, small-minded and short-sighted. This is a ridiculous waste of time for the school and source of trauma for the child and her family.
Katy sounds like a nasty place to grow up, doesn't it? I'm going to go hang out at Dirty Third Streets, where the people are friendlier.
UPDATE: More from Half Empty, The Barbershop Notebooks, and the Houston Chronicle's Inside Katy blog, which asks, "What effect, if any, do you think media focus on the case might have on the Katy area?" My guess: It just makes the rest of the planet think people who live there and tolerate such antics from their school district are a bunch of mean-spirited buffoons. What else? Perhaps it might convince more reasonable people to simply stay away. This kind of stuff has been happening in Katy ISD consistently for a while now. The locals must want it that way. It might even cause some fed up Katy families to leave town. If it were me, I'd absolutely move in order to keep my kid outta there.