Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Juvie prosecutor: Felony graffiti rap a "cop out by schools and police"

Regular readers won't be surprised to learn that I completely agree with Murray from Life at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center in offering:
Major kudos today for [Harris County District Attorney] Juvenile Division Chief Bill Moore for saying what plenty of Defense Attorneys and Prosecutors have been thinking and saying for a long time.

In a report on KHOU, Moore addressed the felony criminalization of "graffiti" by referring to it as a "cop out by schools and police" who seem more than willing to saddle a school aged kid with a felony conviction for doodling on their desk or a bathroom wall.

While Bill is just addressing the graffiti element of crimes that occur in school, I think he has identified the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the handling of kids and the things that they do in schools today. I don't think that it is any stretch of the imagination to say that things that you and I would have gotten swats on the rear end for when we are in school are now things that get kids involved in the Juvenile Justice System.

And the bottom line is that it has become beyond absurd.
The whole post is well worth a read, particularly in the wake of hearings at the Lege this week over several bills boosting penalties for graffiti.


Anonymous said...

You're right. Problem is, of course, separating the gang graffiti from "innocent" doodling. It's easy to do as a practical matter, but not so easy when the law gets involved.

The human scum that recently populated my neighborhood with Maniac Gangster Disciples graffiti can spend 10 years in jail, as far as I am concerned.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of absurd, I noticed that SB1174 proposes that 50% of the revenue from fines collected by tickets issued at schools be returned to the school district.

Now how's that for an incentive to write tickets rather than handle minor things on the campus?

Sleeping, cussing, spitballs = more $$$.

Just think of the possibilities!

Anonymous said...

Have you noticed how newly constructed schools closely resemble newly constructed jails? About the only differences are the sizes of the parking lots, and the abcence of concertina wire at the schools.

Anon 12:02. How do you "separate" graf from "real" art?

TxBluesMan said...



I just learned that a fellow blogger who used to visit your site on a regular basis, rericson (Just Ducky blog), suffered a stroke. Apparently she is out of the hospital and at home.

Although she (like you) was frequently on the wrong side, she is a good blogger and an articulate writer.

I thought that it might be appropriate to let her friends on this site know what was up.

Don Dickson said...

I haven't had much experience with the juvenile justice system in Texas, but what little I've had was enormously discouraging.

In one matter, my client, a middle school girl with good grades, got hung with an assault conviction for pushing another girl in the cafeteria. In my day, this would have warranted a trip to the principal's office, but now apparently the prevailing wisdom is that it makes more sense to arrest you and charge you with a crime.

I met with that girl's teachers and principal - who were accompanied by a lawyer for the district - to discuss the girl's academic performance and behavioral issues. She was getting good grades! But they said her behavior was problematic. For two whole years she had been on some kind of behavior modification plan (they had an acronym for it, I swear, they're worse than the military) without positive results.

When I asked for particulars, one thing they said that she often fell asleep in class, and was very irritable when woken up. (Well hey, I'm irritable if you wake me up, too, and if I'm feeling sleepy as well.) This apparently happened most often in the periods immediately after breakfast and lunch.

Uh-huh, you don't say? I asked if my obese client had been checked for diabetes - no, of course she hadn't. I asked if the district had a dietician who could be consulted. "Oh no, we don't have a dietician."

See, when I was in school, we HAD a dietician, and no police department.

So basically, the school staff spent two years or more spinning their wheels over this girl's behavioral issues, and giving her and her Mom a hard time, and stigmatizing her with this silly "plan" of some kind, without it even occurring to them that the solution to the problem might be to replace the french fries and candy bars with carrot sticks and ranch dressing.

I swear, it didn't even occur to them. Their "solution" was to have the girl arrested and prosecuted.

Anonymous said...

The public school system is nothing more than a pipeline to incarceration. The teachers can’t teach and the administrators are a bunch of hall monitors. I have had kids in three different North Dallas High Schools over the last 10 years and they are a joke. Lake Highlands is a joke. Hillcrest worked out but my son was in ap classes. Teaching to a test is not teaching. Desegregation and lowering the standards killed public education. You want your kid educated it needs to be done in a private school, and not a Podunk Christian school like Canyon Creek. College advisors have told me that a public school AP education is better than most Christian private schools. You want a good education in Dallas you would have to go to Greenhill, Hockaday, St Marks, Ursalin, Yavneh

Anonymous said...

Desegregation killed public education? No surprise you're from Dallas...

Anonymous said...

Desegregation and lowering the standards killed public education.

Well it is a politically incorrect thing to say, but clearly most people really think this way. The huge suburbs that have sprung up due to white flight are a testimony this. I don't think we need to bring back segregation, as long as there are suburbs that are too expensive for poor people to live in, we'll be ok.

Anonymous said...

Of course, this could go on forever, but I have a son who was suspended and given a demerit for making a paper airplane. They termed it "manufacturing a dangerous item". Why? Because it could possibly put someone's eye out.

Lucky for us, no criminal charges were pursued which would have required the services of an attorney or at least an appearance in Municipal Court.

I know a couple of people who determined after spending thousands on attorney's fees to dismiss questionable charges, that these funds could simply be applied to private school tuition.

I know others, without the means to either hire attorneys or pay tuition, who have opted to notify the school district their child is being home schooled. In some cases, that amounts to no more than watching television during school hours.

If enrollment drops, the district just raises local property taxes to compensate for the shortfall from the state. See how that works?

Teacher unions lobby the legislators for harsh methods in order to deal with the serious problems of teacher assaults, guns, drugs, etc. The schools then apply that harsh ammo to even minor things that have gone on for generations.

Upper administrators refuse to undo ridiculous decisions made on campuses for fear of hearing, "The superintendent does not support us".

It's a big mess and I'm not sure how it can be stopped at this point.

Anonymous said...

The phrasing "desegregation and lowering the standards" suggests, dishonestly, that the two have a causative relationship.

In fact, this brand of sloppy thinking is itself a pretty good example of "lowering the standards."


W W Woodward said...

There are teachers who really care about the kids they teach. They go home at night and drink enough whiskey to allow them to get a night's sleep and go back to their workplace the next day. Just like some county jailers who really care about their charges.

As long as the money keeps rolling in, the folks holding administrative positions don't care.

Cynical, you bet I am. Comes from the realization that money is more important than human futures.

Anonymous said...

Desegregation was necessary, perhaps lowering the standards was as well. Remember the black schools were already functioning at a lower standard than the white schools at that time. Prior to desegregation tyc treatment of black children was almost antebellum. I went through the desegregation in Dallas in the 70’s and it was hell. The way I reacted to desegregation, by selling protection, a necessary commodity at the time, is what caused my first referral to tyc. I see the way desegregation was handled in Dallas as the turning point in my life. I was in 6th grade when all this went down and went to a brand new middle school called E D Walker. Several years later I remember after being in Gatesville for a few months I thought “well at least this place isn’t as bad as Walker”. Of course I thought the same thing about tdc, well this place isn’t as bad as tyc. It’s amazing how many former tyc student finds tdc a cake walk compared to tyc, but that’s a different thread for topic about our state’s prison prep school. This thread is about our states pipeline to prison prep school.

I have spoken to numerous people who were DISD employees at that time who all though desegregation was handled wrong. I even had an opportunity several years ago to play a round of golf with the DISD school superintendent from that time Mr. Wright who commented that it should have been handled differently.

One of my children graduated from Hillcrest High School and I remember talking to the principal at the time prior to enrolling him for his sophomore year, 2001. She told me that he would only be competing against 1/3 of his class. When questioning this, I was informed that 1/3 would not graduate, and 1/3 would not care enough to rank. He came from a private school, a poorly academic church based private school but a private school none the less, so he was enrolled in pre AP classes. My son was not AP material but I expected him to perform and he did. He graduated 33 in his class and will graduate this year with an Electrical Engineering degree from UT.

Kids need parents to be fair, firm, consistent, and non judgmental, otherwise between the pubic schools and the juvenile justice de-system the Children of this great state of Texas don’t stand a chance. The fact that money is more important than humans is why it’s so important that parents take the time to teach their children to fish.


Anonymous said...

There is no room left for common sense or reason in this world. Many indviduals seem to believe that the answer to everything is to make new rules. Bad rules that is, that completely exclude the application of common sense. We live in a very confused world these days. Everything is out of sorts. We are a very litigious society of people that do not like to held accountable for anything. We lack character and fortitude in addition to good sense. nothing makes sense.
Graffiti is about much more than a child engaging in some "innocent" doodling. Of course children should not get a felony charge for doodling. Problem is many are not going t have the ability to discern between the two. Concrete thinking administrators, scared of losing funding, being accused of not following the rule, or being afraid of those truly guilty of graffiti will impose the rule in a black and white manner. No common sense. So yes, I wouldn't be surprised if my eight year old gets to be a felon by drawings animals on her folder. Just as I am not surprised that 6 yr. old children innocently holding hands on a rec yard is a sexual offense. When we make up all of these rules we must consider who will be enforcing them. I know how it is.
Just consider that inspite of all the rules, the behavior of students at school is absolutely shocking and incorrigable. The very ones that are most dangerous and disruptive in the classroom are still there. Graffiti is quite often a very dangerous method of communication. It's a way of marking turf and claiming set that often gets people killed. What looks like a harmless drawing is not. You must be trained to look for the subtle ways they include gang signs in drawings.
It's tough to be in the school business these days. The really bad kids get away with really bad behavior while those engaging in minor infractions get the book thrown at them. Principals are afraid to discipline scary children with scary parents, so they turn their attention elsewhere. What happens is the students from higher socio-economic homes and the students from violent, criminal homes do not get punished if their parents are involved. Go substitute teach and find out. The problem here is that graffiti is just a component of dismall state of our schools. I believe that there are rules in place that are not being enforced that could combat this problem if they would only be enforced. I do not believe in accepting it because it won't go away. I don't believe in dumbing down. Schools just need to enforce what they already have in place. Many things would take of themselves but it will take a long time to do it.

Anonymous said...

"Desegregation and lowering the standards killed public education."

Heck man, let's 'git' out our robes and go on down to the 'lynchin'..

Your comment alone speaks volumes of your insensitivity, racist inclination, and shallowness.

Blacks are the problem? I doubt that. No matter if you are finger pointing at 'black' culture, Latio culture, white culture, whatever, it goes back to ONE common factor. YOU and others just like you have raised your children in such a way to demand lowering of the standards.

We as a population are fat, lazy, errogant individuals unworthy of the legacy that our great-grandparents, and grandparents left us. Those were the last to put in a hard days work, to get paid for the work they put in. Today, we get to the desk at 8:01, and leave at 4:58, and then get upset because we didn't get a raise, or bonus. You want public schools to get better, then hold your children to a higher standard at home. Put the electronics away, and have them put their faces into books. Family values, no matter WHAT ethnic background you are from died when the masses found out TV was a good baby-sitter.

Your racist comment could be echo'd from 'black' neighborhoods as well when some 'cracker' kid goes in and shoots up another school in Colorado, Germany, Iowa, or here.

Anonymous said...

Your comment alone speaks volumes of your insensitivity, racist inclination, and shallowness.

Typical liberal trying to shut someone up. You don't know this guy. Free your mind, dude.

Anonymous said...

I am a teacher, and I personally take offense to the remark, "The teachers can’t teach and the administrators are a bunch of hall monitors."

Society has tied the hands educators. We can not teach a class full of students when you have a couple in there who consistently are being disruptive. But yet, disciplanary tools have been taken away to the point that the only option left for schools is to seek help from law enforcments.

You will not find me giving a student a swat. I will not risk my job over being sued for that.
What are my options? Remove the disruptive student from the classroom? Where is he to go, and then of course he is being denied his education. Of course, when he is being disruptive the other students are not able to learn because I can not teach over loud distracting noises.

Dealing with the graffiti... if you can't give swats, and you can't suspend them from school, they can't serve after school detention because they have to ride the bus home, options to redirect behavior become quickly eliminated.

You may not like it and you may feel like it is overkill, but you have left schools with very little other options other than to involve the law.

Anonymous said...

2:49, you make a lot of good points. We can't blame the kids, the public school system sucks because it's run by the government. It's unfair to blame the teachers, many of them try very hard and do a lot of good.

But it's dissapointing that the teachers unions are relentlesly against vouchers. Even in DC, a true hellhole on earth where public school teachers can roll six figures, they recently shut down the tiny vouchers program there. How pathetic!