Seeing that story makes me happier than ever that the Texas Legislature this year approved Sen. John Whtimire's SB 1114. That bill prohibits giving Class C tickets to kids under 12. So the girl in the above news story couldn't get a ticket at all under the statute that goes into effect September 1st. After that, police cannot ticket children under 12 in Texas schools. For students 12 and above, all Class C charges must include "an offense report, a statement by a witness, and a statement by a victim. This would apply to offenses that were alleged to have occurred on school property or on a vehicle owned or operated by a county or school district. Prosecutors could not proceed in a trial unless the law enforcement officer met these requirements," according to the official digest (pdf) from the House Research Organization. Moreover, "The Education Code offenses of disruption of class and disruption of transportation would no longer apply to primary and secondary grade students enrolled in the school where the offense occurred." That's a big change.
There are other amendments to the code that should significantly reduce the number of Class C tickets written in schools:
Children accused of any class C misdemeanor (maximum fine of $500), other than a traffic offense, could be referred to a first - offender program before a complaint was filed with a criminal court. The cases of children who successfully completed first - offender programs for class C misdemeanors could not be referred to the court if certain conditions in current law were met.Also, "Courts would be required to dismiss complaints or referrals for truancy made by a school district if they were not accompanied by currently required statements about whether truancy prevention measures were applied in the case and whether the student was eligible for special education services."
SB 1114 would prohibit arrest warrants for persons with class C misdemeanors under the Education Code for an offense committed when the person was younger than 17 years old. School district peace officers no longer would be authorized to perform administrative duties for a school district but would be limited to their current authority to perform law enforcement duties.
With any luck, thanks to SB 1114, we won't hear more horror stories like that terrible tale of the perfumed perpetrator in the coming school year. Whitmire's legislation has been mostly unheralded - even to some extent on this blog, which should have lauded it in this retrospective post - mainly because it was met with only tepid opposition from law enforcement and received broad, full-throated support from nearly everyone else, regardless of party or station. The media are drawn to a fight but here there was (mostly) sweeping consensus. Be that as it may, SB 1114 was one of the major accomplishments of the 83rd Texas Legislature. Of all the criminal-justice bills passed this year, arguably SB 1114 is the item legislators can point to that will affect the largest number of average, everyday families. It'll be fascinating to parse the data down the line to find out the effect both on ticket writing and the use of traditional school disciplinary methods outside the criminal justice system, which one hopes will be enhanced with the passage of this new law.