Public interest law center Texas Appleseed today released a new report documenting the overrepresentation of minority and special education students in expulsions from Texas schools -- particularly for non-criminal Student Code of Conduct violations. ...
“Being expelled from school increases these students’ chances of advancing farther in the school-to-prison pipeline,” said Texas Appleseed Legal Director Deborah Fowler. Surprisingly, some smaller districts (Aldine, North East, Waco, Klein, Brownsville and Killeen ISDs) top the list of Texas school districts expelling the largest number of students (2007-08). Dallas ISD expelled the most students (408) to a Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program that year, followed by North East ISD (290) and Houston ISD (260).
“Compared to the nearly 100,000 students sent to school districts’ Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs annually, a much smaller number of students is expelled from Texas public schools – only 8,202 students in 2008-09. However, the ramifications are more serious – and we are seeing the same disturbing trend: minority and special education students are being expelled at rates disproportionate to their representation in Texas’ student population,” Fowler said. Among the major findings:
- Discretionary school expulsions outnumbered mandatory expulsions (for offenses listed in the Texas Education Code) by two-to-one (2008-09).
- Special education students make up only 10 percent of the student body statewide, but account for 21 percent of all expulsions in Texas (2008-09). African American special education students are over three times more likely to be expelled than other students, and Hispanic special education students are two-and-a-half times more likely to be expelled.
- Expulsions for “serious or persistent misbehavior” or more minor Student Code of Conduct Violations in a Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP) account for more than a third of all expulsions statewide (2008-09) – and 55 percent of discretionary expulsions to JJAEPs that year.
“In too many cases, expelling students for ‘serious and persistent misbehavior’ in a DAEP is introducing young people to the juvenile justice system when they have committed no crime – which is an extreme consequence for behavior that would not be an expellable offense in any other educational setting,” Fowler said.
In Texas, the majority of students are expelled to one of the state’s 37 Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Programs (JJAEPs) operated by local juvenile boards and overseen by the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission. In counties without a JJAEP, students are expelled to the street – or in a limited number of instances, held longer in DAEPs. The majority of counties with a JJAEP are prosecuting “serious or persistent misbehavior” in a DAEP as a CINS offense (Conduct in Need of Supervision) – “so now these students, who wouldn’t even have been expelled for this behavior in their regular school, are coming under the jurisdiction of the court. This is the most obvious example of a disturbing trend toward criminalizing student misbehavior,” Fowler said.
Texas Appleseed is recommending implementing school-wide positive behavior supports programs that have been shown to dramatically reduce the need for out-of-school disciplinary placements and placing a statewide priority on increasing mental health resources for students in public schools. Texas Appleseed also is proposing changes in state law to:
Surveyed JJAEP administrators recommend eliminating discretionary student expulsions to JJAEPs – particularly for “serious or persistent misbehavior” – given the challenges of having to simultaneously address the needs of these students alongside those expelled to JJAEPs for major criminal offenses. Lack of a statutory definition for “serious or persistent misbehavior” accounts for the wide variation across Texas school districts in expelling students for this offense.
- Require the Texas Education Agency to monitor and enforce DAEP standards. (State lawmakers required TEA to adopt DAEP standards during the 2009 session, but stopped short of having them monitor or enforce them.)
- Eliminate school districts’ option under the Texas Education Code to expel students for “serious or persistent misbehavior” or other minor Student Code of Conduct violations while in a DAEP.
- Eliminate “serious or persistent misbehavior” while in a DAEP from the list of offenses prosecutable as Conduct in Need of Supervision (CINS) under the Texas Family Code. ...
Friday, April 16, 2010
TX Appleseed: Don't put misbehaving schoolkids with criminal ones
With the Senate Criminal Justice Committee preparing to examine school discipline issues at a hearing later this month, Texas Appleseed has produced a timely report titled "School Expulsion: The Path from Lockout to Dropout" (pdf). Here's the meat of the accompanying press release: