Monday, March 24, 2008

Dallas News: "Texas actually predestines some children for a life of crime"

A get tough approach to juvenile corrections has "inadvertently constructed a pipeline to youth prison," declared an editorial this morning in the Dallas News, discussing research presented at a recent Children's Defense Fund conference in Houston making the case that "Texas actually predestines some children for a life of crime. Their findings help explain why youth crime in North Texas isn't abating despite police crackdowns and high incarceration rates."

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

Grits, this is something that just doesn't get enough attention in the whole debate over juvenile justice.

Schools as early as pre-K play a crucial role by the way they handle discipline problems. The CDF research builds on a lot of other research documenting it.

There is also a growing number of ethnographic studies of individual schools and groups of kids that shows it too.

A real policy discussion of the causes of juvenile crime would open a gigantic can of worms about our funding priorities, starting with early childhood education and public schooling.

BB

Anonymous said...

Of course its the schools' fault. Just another blame game for everyone but the parents and individual.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"Just another blame game"

You seem to have that part down pat, anon. In every possible situation, no matter what, you've already decided who's to blame. Interesting. Not very useful, but interesting.

Ron in Houston said...

Excuse me while I jump on Anon 2:04's online butt.

I've had schools try to criminalize my kid for using the word shit. I've had schools try to criminalize my kid for having dirty pictures on his palm pilot. These are just my experiences. Go search the news, oh opinionated one, for all the times schools have kids prosecuted for things that really aren't crimes.

"[P]lay a crucial role" - what part of that don't you understand? Last time I checked playing a crucial role was not the same as being the causative factor.

Damn, it the art of nuance lost in todays world?

Anonymous said...

Just to be a devil's advocate for a moment. When a school does a punishment, especially a educator that is not in the administration building, we as a whole do have to walk on a double edge tight rope if you will. If we don't say anything to the students about profanity and sexually explicit details we get parents swooping down on us like a hawk and we can get anything from a repremand in our employment folders which travels with us and can cause us not to get hired because we are not a discipline manager and teaching the students respect and decency or we may even be terminated from employment if it is severe enough. If we do say something yet again another set of parents swoop in for the kill, then again we are repremanded or loosing our jobs for the above same reasons and it is put in our folders and our authority as the adult in the classroom is underminded. So either was an educator loose both ways. Not to say there that everything is correct in the school system because that is surely not the case but when we are given legislation not only the superintendent's office but also as high up as the goverment powers in Texas that be. It makes it pretty dificult to just place it all on the schools or the parents either. Just my two cents.

Ron in Houston said...

Anon

I understand that you're probably part of the education establishment and sticking up for schools, but school districts are frankly just out of control.

I work as a youth sponsor at my church and I've heard stories of campus police officers harassing the kids for dress code violations. Give any bureaucracy their own sanctioned police agency and you're asking for trouble.

The school district did not care one iota for my opinions. They like any good bureaucracy basically told me I didn't have any say so in the matter.

Anon 12:54 has a point. If you're looking at the problem of youth becoming criminals, you have to look at the role of schools in the mix.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Okay, I think we can all agree that in Ron's case parenting must surely be to blame. ;)

But in all seriousness, we didn't used to use formal disciplinary processes for kindergarteners and first graders and the sky didn't fall. I think of the school district pushing for felony prosecution of a 6th grade girl who wrote "I love Alex" on the bathroom wall. While they may have done so to please certain class of parents, somewhere, and I understand the pressure they're under, I think it's also right to hold school administrators accountable for pursuing too harsh policies that create demonstrable public safety harms.

Like Ron's kid, my own daughter had more than her share of trouble with the school disciplinary system. But I was repeatedly shocked to find administrators pursuing the most draconian possible retaliations, often for behavior that I'd engaged in more egregiously, myself, a generation before in my own misspent youth. Sure, we were punished, but they didn't just immediately try to kick you into some special, pre-criminal track.

But all this is anecdotal. The long-term research that Bill Bush refers to that's been coming out more and more frequently, and was highlighted at the CDF conference, examines empirical outcomes with scientific rigor instead of just surmising from personal experience. Given that new evidence, government by anecdote is no longer good enough, and nor are simplistic red herrings like that by anon at 2:04.

Anonymous said...

I have always believed that one of the biggest creators of juvenile offenders is the Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs, where youth are essentially warehoused because of some problem, usually undiagnosed, and not provided the educational services they should receive or we pay for. We use to teach problem students, instead we just put them in a DAEP to become bored and uneducated.

Howard A. Hickman

dirty harry said...

I can tell you as a parent/student advocate of 15 years, the big problem with public school discpline is that public school employees don't follow the law - period. They selectively enforce disciplinary policy, often letting real offenders and troublemakers get way out of control. And, teachers and administrators both do a sloppy job of uniformly enforcing TexEdCode ch 37 disciplinary laws. Disciplinary laws and programs work, but only if you uniformly and fairly apply them in a responsible manner.

Anonymous said...

just close down all the schools and let parents home school their own kids. that should solve the problem, wait they would find someone to blame the problems on beside the family structure.
now that I have said that negative comment. the real problem that most americans do not want to own up to, is the fact that many years ago, the baby boomers took punishment out of schools and left them wide open for failure in that dept. kids do not respect teachers, principals and anyone else telling them what to do. we made this mess with the schools and now we want to blame them for our own mistakes. Whoops another negative comment. sorry.

Anonymous said...

as a juvenile justice practitioner....... the problems run way deeper than schools by themselves... though as someone mentioned earlier, DAEPS have many issues and assist with leading to more problems...... the primary issues(problems)we face are parents and families - when we (juvenile justice system) deal with the eldest of a sibling group and then we get the next five brothers and sisters over a ten year period - there's the main problem.... it's a cycle - as a kid once told me when encouraged to find a job, " my momma's on welfare, my aunts, my uncle and grandma. They're all on welfare. I'll be on welfare all my life too!" ...... It's a cycle that's got to be broken whether it's poverty, crime or education...... break the cycle and the future may look a little brighter later down the chain..... Just my thoughts !! Thanks for the forum Grits!

jigmeister said...

Grits:
Came across this off subject matter that might interest you concerning a case the Supreme Court just granted cert on:
http://volokh.com/posts/1206371357.shtml

The issue of "consent once removed" is not the law in Texas today that I know of, but should the Supremes decide in favor of the police, warrantless entries may be legal in CI dope purchases where the officers enter a residence to make an arrest immediately after a CI gives a signal that he has purchased dope. The would have changed the outcome in several Houston cases that I remember.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the problems facing children now are multi-layered. I have worked in Spec Ed and with high-risk kids for 25 years. I also had my "misspent" youth. All of these things give me a fairly balanced view. Schools cannot raise children. The excessive use of discipline in an educational system is ineffective and damaging. Sadly, it seem that our society has made it difficult for families to raise children. Many families are single/working parent households, children are frequently left to care for themselves. The issues of learning disabilities and mental health are only addressed if a parent is a very effective advocate and that is not the skills many people have. There is little support for the "average" kid, who given direction, can be a happy, functional citizen. Instead we wait for these children to make mistakes and then put them on the "pipeline". The education system is completely to blame for not providing educational settings that encourage learning. Families are responsible for raising their children to the best of their abilities. We, as a society, are responsible for the rest. That includes living in safe and healthy environments, healthcare, and providing opportunities in this limitless future they have.
BTW: Turn off the tv.

Anonymous said...

In a juvenile justice department I am familiar with, fully 20% of the referrals come from the ISD police department. At the jjaep, fully 90% are there for non-mandatory offenses. Of course many of these kids are referred for drugs, weapons, etc. but many at the jjaep are there because of their classroom behavior. Tehe ISD has taken a position of out of sight - out of mind and get them out of the main classroom so the others can learn.

Everything is not as simple as some of the contributors on this thread want to make them.

Anonymous said...

Ron, cursing in class is disrupting the educational process, which is against the law. You kid didnt get in trouble for having porno on his palm pilot, he got in trouble for showing them to other kids.

24 years of teaching, including 13 at TYC and 3 grown kids of my own, have shown me that most of the time the kids learn from the parents, then the school gets blamed when it tries to enforce rules.

Why should the school take the advice from a church sponser whose kid curses at school and tries to spread porno?

Ya'll go ahead and blame everyone but the little darlings themselves and the parents have raised them. Our schools are in trouble because of low expectations and very little discipline.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I'm sure the last commenter never cursed or looked at porno in their youth, and therefore feels free to cast the first stone. Just a warning, friend - your perspective on the world can be skewed when you spend to much time looking down your nose at others.

Ron, just fyi, anytime someone uses the term "little darlings," it's code to tell you they've been in the system too long and their mind is utterly closed. In TYC it usually means the speaker has devolved to become as immature and spiteful as the youth they work around every day, a phenomenon you can see play out in many TYC-related comment strings on Grits, sad to say. I wouldn't take it personally, it's more about them than you.

Why anyone would work at TYC if they feel so cynical about the youth I can only imagine.

Anonymous said...

The point is not whether or not I have ever cursed or looked at porn. I suppose a policeman that has ever sped in his own car is no longer competent to write a speeding ticket. Great logic. Society must have rules. When a child breaks the rules they should experience the consquences. Some parents nowagays refuse to believe their offspring could really break the rules, so they look for someone other than their child to blame.

So anytime anyone uses the term "little darlings" it is code they have taught too long? Pretty broad brush there. I left TYC because it had become unstable. i love working with children but dont understand parents that always defend their child, rather than letting them experience the consequences of their actions. I make as much money running my ranch as I do teaching but still teach because I enjoy it.

When I got in trouble at school my dad doubled the punishment at home, no questions asked. I had a parent call me the other day and tell me she had heard Johnny's side, now she wanted to hear mine. We learned to respect teachers, policemen and authority. Now little Johhny can run home and make up stuff because he knows his mother will think the truth is somewhere in between.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"The point is not whether or not I have ever cursed or looked at porn."

It sure is when as a so-called professional you're saying Ron's kid should be kicked into DAEP for it. Then it makes you a hypocrite.

"anytime anyone uses the term "little darlings" it is code they have taught too long"

Nope, not that they've taught too long, that they've worked for the justice system too long. Teachers outside of penal institutions don't use such demeaning language.

The problem with schools these days, as per your final paragraph, is precisely that Johnny's mother has every reason to believe the truth is somewhere in between. When people's attitudes toward your children are as outrageously and unreasonably hostile as you've demonstrated here, as a parent you definitely do and should look for truth beyond just whatever some angry teacher tells you. School discipline programs have lost their integrity, so parents no longer respect them. Why are you surprised?

Like I said, the darlings comment said more about you than the kids.

Anonymous said...

I got in the habit of using the term from my great grandmother. She never worked in a prison but did teach for 3 years in a one room school in Willow Grove after recieving her one year teaching certificate from Mary Hardin Baylor. You really got me on that one.

"Outragously and unreasonable hostile"? If a school tried to "criminalize" a kid for saying "shit" in the classroom you can bet it wasnt the first problem. Some people would consider passing around porn to juviniles a pretty serious violation. Of course, by some standards anyone that has ever done this (probably averyone) would be a hypocrite for trying to stop it.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Yeah, sure, your great grandmother and her one room schoolhouse. Just a coincidink that it's a common, demeaning term used by prison guards and JCOs, and you've worked in TYC for years. If you say so.

And yes, outrageously hostile. How else do you describe comments like, "Why should the school take the advice from a church sponser [sic] whose kid curses at school and tries to spread porno?." That can only be viewed as intentionally insulting.

Tell me the two or three most embarrassing moments of your life, or your kids', then I'll string them together and ask why should we listen to someone who's been through THAT. Perhaps you've cursed, or shared porno, or maybe even worse, but that's not the point, right? Because when you're just being an anonymous a-hole spewing off about other people's kids you can say whatever you want without being accountable. I allow that behavior here, though I'm increasingly wondering about the wisdom of that decision. But that doesn't mean I have to respect it, and some days I actually have the spare time to call one of you TYCers on your BS.

Anonymous said...

Ultimately, the real issues here don't have much to do with who's to "blame" for the behavior leading to the disciplinary referrals - whether it is teachers, educators, or parents. The important issues are: 1) are we putting children as young as pre-k, kinder, and 1st grade on a path that almost guarantees their academic failure and - possibly - involvement in the juvenile and later adult criminal justice systems; and 2) if what we are doing to discipline children at school isn't working (and we know it isn't - Texas Appleseed released a report that shows an alarming 'recidivism' rate for these programs and TEA acknowledges an enormous dropout rate for DAEPs), is there something that does work?

Children who have genuine behavior issues often have these issues not because they are "bad kids" - very few people are born sociopaths - but instead because adults have failed them. Sussing out which adult is to blame in the first instance does nothing to assist these children with their problems. Nor does it further the child's interest - or the interests of the taxpayers - to allow the education system to perpetuate that cycle of failure by placing children on a trajectory that results in costly incarceration rather than simply intervening in a meaningful way.

"Zero tolerance" policies have been decried by conservatives and liberals alike as ineffective and damaging to children. A fairly broad body of academic research supports this. There are programs out there that are research-based and have been shown to drastically reduce disciplinary referrals, not because they are "soft" on "bad kids" but because they use methods that are proven to work. Texas schools simply need better policy that gives teachers better tools for managing classrooms, and helps children who really need help get the help that they need.

dirty harry said...

I'm sure there are better disciplinary tools for teachers to use in the classroom. But, my beef is that they don't properly use the ones they have. Go up to any teacher and ask them if they know what Chapter 37 of Texas Education Code is, and I doubt that 90 percent of them have even heard of it. How can you possibly follow the laws and administer discipline if you don't even know what the law says you can or can't do?

Anonymous said...

Everytime the subject comes up here about teachers it seems it turns out to be a teacher bashing. I am a teacher and all I have to say to all of those who think we are useless and don't know the Texas Educational Codes and so forth. Become one and step into our shoes everyday and see what you think then.
I learned a long time ago not to judge someone until you have walked in their shoes. Believe me that was a real eye opener.

dirty harry said...

Whether or not we "walk in your shoes" as a teacher has no bearing on whether or not you are well-versed in the laws that govern your profession. If you aren't, then you are at a disadvantage when it comes to doing your job in a conscientious manner. Most teachers are not.

Anonymous said...

"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I'll understand."

That's what it’s all about IMO. What's so difficult to understand that all kid's need to be a part of the equation?

The problem is the attention, and by that I mean individual attention. It's problematic because we are so damn "give up" driven in this state and want to support enhancing penalties as opposed to investing in the root cause of it all.

Children are not born delinquent. Their environment shapes it. - Whitsfoe

Anonymous said...

Researchers and clinicians at the Duke University Center for Child and Family Policy (Kenneth Dodge primarily) have long established that removing youth from the mainstream and placing them with other youth with behavior problems, only makes matters worse.

Texas is extremely lacking in prevention. The mentality of 2:04 is the exact reason Texas is so screwed up. You can hold people accountable, without damning them. Hey imagine actually trying to provide training and access to other resources for these youth and their families. It actually works. It reduces delinquency.

But hey, screw em. They screwed up. Its their problem. Send the damn youth to prison. That'll teach em.

man, but by the grace of God go you or I. Be thankful for what you have and try to help those around you who are not so fortunate. It is not that difficult or complicated.

I hate to ruin this post by mixing politics but it is the Republicans and George Bush who helped to firmly institutionalize and establish this mentality with juveniles in Texas. Again in the face of information which suggested this was the wrong thing to do he persisted because of political expediency.

I used to be a conservatively minded independent. But no longer.

OBAMA 08!

Anonymous said...

Obamba in 08 - listen to da' hood my friend:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=khuu-RhOBDU

Anonymous said...

The link is no good my friend. I added the Obama because Grits has identified him as the best candidate for criminal justice reform.

Anonymous said...

But what's his track record on CJ reforms? 54 double D's? The link is good. Just cut and paste in the browser...

Anonymous said...

8:33 said:

Whether or not we "walk in your shoes" as a teacher has no bearing on whether or not you are well-versed in the laws that govern your profession. If you aren't, then you are at a disadvantage when it comes to doing your job in a conscientious manner. Most teachers are not.

You can know all the laws, codes and what ever they write and train and it will be useless as tits on a bore hog if you don't know how to treat kids with the respect they deserve and desire along with kindness and understanding of where they come from.

Instead of saying " they don't use the tools that are offered" trying saying Some may not as They refers to ALL. You can not speak for everyone as not all share your opinion and believe you have the answer to the education problems.

Anonymous said...

I have only one comment.

This is continued proof that Texas will stand in the face of reform and still do what is wrong despite evidence that is contrary, and will nonetheless stay the course.

In other words we are a stupid state.

dirty harry said...

3/25/2008 10:51:00 PM said:

Instead of saying " they don't use the tools that are offered" trying saying Some may not as They refers to ALL. You can not speak for everyone as not all share your opinion and believe you have the answer to the education problems.

- - - -

How's this sound? If all teachers did obey the law, I would have a heck of a lot of free time on my hands, and all kids would get the treatment and services they need.

Now, did that sit well with how you "feel?"

Anonymous said...

I'm waiting for the first lawsuit filed by a parent of a child whose kid is in school to learn and has his learning disrupted by the kid who continually disrupts the learning environemnt. That will be a glorious day for all those kids that have to put up with the continued disruptive behaviors of a few. I need to find a victim's advocacy blog somewhere.

Mainstreaming seems to be the problem for anyone who knows anything about special education.

Anonymous said...

The general feeling is that NCLB and it's get tough attitude are on the way out.

The new Texas Commissioner of Education has set in motion initiatives to improve Health Education, Physical Education and Fine Arts Education, and has refused to move up the timelines on New TAKS requirements.

I feel the winds of change.

Anonymous said...

9:24 Yes, that is much better even though you corrected yourself with a negative pun.

Anonymous said...

Anon said:
Mainstreaming seems to be the problem for anyone who knows anything about special education.

I definitely qualify as "anyone", but I completely disagree with this statement. Fault doesn't lie with inclusion, fault lies with its implementation. It isn't difficult to do it the "right" way, but it does involve a lot of cooperation from many levels. Therein lies the core of the problem because the highest levels are frequently more concerned about the short term $. No foresight.

dirty harry said...

3/27/2008 06:57:00 AM, you got it right. The unofficial population of TYC is about half special ed. I've had more than one politician and many public school adminsitrators make the statement that the only reason we deal with special ed kids is because we have to.

Anonymous said...

If you are in a rural county without much in the way of resources, the easiest way to deal with a special ed kid is to get rid of him by sending him to TYC. Someone else's problem then. It happens all the time. The Judges in those counties are well aware of who elects them to the bench.

Anonymous said...

I believe that our schools predestine BOYS to prison, but not necessarily girls. And it begins all the way back in Kindergarten. Here in Corpus Christi, our public schools no longer offer recess to elementary school children. As you can imagine, we have an extraordinary overload of behavior problems with boys because they have been cut off from their biological need to play off their excess energy. "Put them on meds for ADHD, so they'll be calm" seems to always be the first answer.

Why not just let them exercise a bit during their 8-hour daily sentence in prison...er...I mean school?