Monday, March 02, 2009

School districts should be required to re-admit ex-TYC youth

Juvie corrections will be back in the spotlight this week with the Corrections Committee on Thursday devoting a day of testimony to Texas Youth Commission (TYC), the Juvenile Probation Commission (TJPC), the Office of Independent Ombudsman (OIO) and Sunset proposals for a merger.

Which gives me cause to introduce readers to
Tara Haelle, a former schoolteacher who's now a grad student at the LBJ School studying juvie corrections this semester and who's been assigned to Grits as an intern to help supplement this blog's juvie coverage. I'll be editing her work (and sometimes injecting editorial content) as well as incorporating her research into my own writing. Needless to say, none of the opinions expressed here in any way represent those of UT, the LBJ School, her teacher, nor anybody but the writers themselves.

To kick things off, I asked Tara to run through the highlights of the section of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee's
interm report (pdf, Interim Charge Two, pp 20-36) regarding TYC juvie corrections, leading off with a discussion of barriers to reentry identified by the committee. Here is an edited version of her first report:

* * *

If youth are to be successful after leaving TYC, the best path is for them to finish high school and eventually get a good job. But according to the interim report from the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, these things aren’t always happening.

The report describes two major issues with re-entry that legislators ought to address this session: requiring school districts to admit kids released from TYC and tightening confidentiality laws that often keep kids from getting jobs after they’re released.

Key among the “barriers to the successful return to law-abiding behavior” is treatment of TYC kids when they return to regular school districts, the report says. One part of the problem is the reluctance of school districts to take the kids back:

“Some school districts refuse admission of youth when TYC places the youth in a home of a person, not a parent, because the school district considers the placement to be made without a court order.”

The Education Code already requires that public schools admit children placed in foster care by a state agency in their district, but some school districts refuse to recognize TYC’s authority and deny kids admission.

At least one unnamed school district, according to the report, tried to put a TYC youth into an alternative education program for the same offense that sent them to TYC. The law needs to clearly state that students can only be expelled or sent to alternative schools for current behavior — not for so-called "prior adjudicated behavior," i.e., the behavior that got them sent to TYC.

(The Ombudsman is also working on an evaluation of re-entry obstacles with a focus on the educational challenges. Though the report is not ready yet, it will likely provide more depth on some of the reforms necessary to help TYC students’ re-entry process.)

The interim report sensibly says that “to successfully rejoin the community, TYC youth must be given an opportunity to complete their high school education in regular or alternative schools without impediment.” But getting back in school is only one hurdle these kids face. If employers can access their records, it can be an uphill battle to get a good job. The report says:

“Some of this is caused by the increasingly easy access the public has to delinquency and/or criminal offense information on TYC youth. Internet disclosure of this information has been reported as has inappropriate release of this information from DPS employees over the phone. Even though this information is usually restricted to the general public, most employers have access to it and are sometimes reticent to give TYC youth the benefit of the doubt as job applicants.”

These records should be sealed — and so should the lips of state employees. If the state doesn’t make these records harder to leak, and the penalties more severe for leaking them, that’s one more reason kids may end up back at TYC.

It shouldn’t be so tough for a youth released from TYC to get back into regular education classrooms and working at a regular job. And it shouldn’t be so tough for the Legislature to help make that happen.

Ed note: I don't necessarily agree that penalties should be more severe for leaking information so much as I think current restrictions should be more rigorously enforced and DPS systems improved so that such information is only revealed on a need to know basis, not online or over the phone. Otherwise, these are excellent reentry suggestions by the committee.


Anonymous said...

As a parent, I don't want those criminals in class with my baby.

You can't un-stab somebody.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Your "baby" would be safer if "those criminals" can get an education and a job.

Anonymous said...

We - Texas, owe ex=TYC youth this chance. We all know they received very litle while in TYC, so we need to make up for that now. Give the kids a chance at school; TYC made sure they were disregarded and lay at waste while warehoused by the state.

Anonymous said...

Most of the kids in TYC will be safe to put back into the classroom of a public school and do fine. But we need to prepare them as well for this transition.Generally how to deal with problems if someone finds out where they came from(TYC).

The other part of this is Sex Offenders and mentally distrubed kids. With the mentally distrubed what is going to keep him or her from getting out of a desk and taking his pen or pencil and stabbing the kids that just pissed him off or if his voices tell him to do so , because he did not take his meds that day?

If you don't work with these types everyday in TYC, then you can not understand this behavior it is hard to imagine this would happen.
I am not saying that they don't deserve an education or a job, they do, they have as much right as the next person, but school districs need to know this information to keep the kids and teachers, every one safe.
The "normal" kid is not going to have a clue that this kid has this problem that anything can trigger him until its to late.

Did we not have a kid that attacked and tried to or raped a teacher in the Houston area a few years back?

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

Great post - glad to see this series here. I'm stunned at the leakage of sealed juvenile records, esp since I as a researcher am prohibited from looking at such records even for kids from say the 1910s who are now probably deceased.

I think re-entry is a crucial problem esp given the basic justification for even having a separate juvie system.

In fact, I'd go further and suggest such kids should receive extra attention to help them succeed upon re-entry into school, in the form of tutoring or counseling.


Anonymous said...

If only we had some sort of state funded special school were we could send them to both keep them away from the good kids and also give them the attention they need.

Anonymous said...


Re-entry into the community starts with intense supervision, pre-release from TYC. Know the home and you will know the child. Know his community and you shall know if he/she should be back in the public school or need other services. It's PAROLE that needs looked into prior to enrollment into school.

Anonymous said...

The first comment above his non-sense, Grits is correct. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people citing boot camp’s produce more disciplined criminals, so what now, education will produce smarter criminals? This is a completely asinine statement, education will produce less criminals.

Anonymous said...

"These records should be sealed — and so should the lips of state employees. If the state doesn’t make these records harder to leak, and the penalties more severe for leaking them, that’s one more reason kids may end up back at TYC."

Sealing of Juvenile Records
Family Code Section 58.003 provides for the sealing of juvenile records. An individual with juvenile records available for sealing may file an application for sealing of records in a juvenile court of the county in which the proceeding occurred. Juvenile records ordered sealed by the court are removed from the criminal history database. Individuals attempting to seal juvenile records should seek the advice of a licensed attorney to determine if they are eligible for an order sealing records.

Automatic Restriction of Access to Juvenile Records
Family Code Section 58.203 restricts access to certain juvenile records. Records relating to an individual's juvenile case that meet the criteria established by §58.203 are certified by the Department (TX DPS) for automatic restriction of access.

Upon certification, the department (TX DPS) may not disclose the existence of the records or any information from the records in response to an inquiry from:

a law enforcement agency;
a criminal or juvenile justice agency;
a governmental or other agency given access to information under Chapter 411, Government Code; or
any other person, agency, organization, or entity.
The department (TX DPS) may permit access to:

a criminal justice agency for a criminal justice purpose; or
for research purposes, by the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission, the Texas Youth Commission, or the Criminal Justice Policy Council.

Anonymous said...

"At least one unnamed school district, according to the report, tried to put a TYC youth into an alternative education program for the same offense that sent them to TYC."

What was the offense charged? Did the school district prevail?

Tara said...

To 5:57, the report did not provide details on the offense or the success of the school district (it didn't even name the school), and I have not independently researched the specific instance the report refers to.

Anonymous said...

The kid should come out of tyc if he or she is old enough with their GED, and at least 1 marketable skill. There should be state funded programs that would pay for tuition and books at any state college for former tyc kids. This would include programs to get the kid prepared academically and mentor as needed throughout the academic lifecycle. This has a high potential to disrupt the tyc to TDCJ ConNextion process. Hell its the least the legislators can do for those poor kids after spending time in the 120 year old state sponsored agency for child abuse. Former tyc kids should not go back into the public school system no mater what. The tyc kids are meaner and the potential to fail in the free world is greater for these kids in a public school. Education is key, its what got me out of the lifestyle and kept me from going prison. Its how I "broke norms".

Anonymous said...

What should the state do for the kid that did not go to TYC but lived in a low income housing development?

How about the kid in public school that is struggling and just does not have the brain to pass all of his classes or that TAKS TEST the state mandates? What do we give him to get started in life?

The kid that could not afford nice clothes and a hot meal every day, but has not committed a crime?

Why do we glorify the kids in TYC and forget the horrible crimes they committed and say poor babies and leave the law abiding kid to fend for himself?

Go to jail, get a fast track highschool diploma, get some college paid for, get a free GED if you can pass the test, get out the state will get you an apartments, car and set you up for life changing ways! Stay in school, don't committe a crime and fend for your self buddy, we an't worried about you, you did not rape or steal,burn down a building,do drugs or kill someone.

Anonymous said...

We set the kids up if we place them in alternative schools when they are released from TYC. It is a high risk situation for these kids to put them in an environment where all the kids that are there are already in trouble. When these kids are placed in the regular schools, they are given a choice to choose to hang around positive kids.
I am not sure why this has always been a problem. I had a youth once that had an advocate from advocacy inc. and I explained that this could be a high risk situation and she was able to get him into public school. Why does a kid have to have an advocate to make this happen?

And remember some kids leave our facilities and still are not old enough to take their GED

Anonymous said...

I agree 10:06pm its prolly besta jus execute 'em.

Darn tootin'.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree that the best track for TYC youth is to get them back to high school. Most would probably benefit more from ensuring GED and subsequent vocational/job training and if they are motivated to school go to community college.

PirateFriedman said...

“Some school districts refuse admission of youth when TYC places the youth in a home of a person, not a parent, because the school district considers the placement to be made without a court order.”

A victory for freedom. One less kid recieving education funded by stolen taxpayer dollars. The fact that such kids are thugs who probably don't appreciate the education makes it all the better.

Anonymous said...

I agree w/the last post. These thugs should be in jail - TYC/prison, killed. Why spend hard earned tax maoney on these criminals. If their families don't care enough to keep them off the streets, why should good citizens pay for their care?

Anonymous said...

First you have to look at the reality of what is happening...true, you can not "undo a stabbing". However, if 1) the laws were tighter - you really would not know what that youth did or even if "your baby" was around an ex-offender, thus the corrective measures on the bill. 2) Your "baby" is not as innocent as you think. 3)Not all schools have issues with kids re-entering however, the accurate account of the schooling is going to be an issue. a) TYC pushes for the GED and then the high school diploma which proves itself at fault because with a GED a youth does not have to re-enter high school and normally does not and therefore remains inept upon release. So, the issue is not really the re-entry as a whole it should be focused on TYC and the educational structure and what it will offer for the youth. I.E. for those to young to take the GED what strengths within the TYC educational system is going to urge any school to take these kids? Like, credits towards the high school diploma. Those remain the same in all districts. The credits are not being issued in full force because the kids are not being taught in full academic force. b) The courts lie when they say it does not reflect on the background of a does! I can prove it with documentation, even on the credit issue. So, lets focus on the root and not the weed that is above the surface but the low laying rotten root that grows the weed and the problem will have a workable solution. So, yes, school districts should take youth back into the fold....but will the legislature offer to safe guard those kids, school teachers gossip as if they were in school again. You don't think they have tagged those kids with a red label already. They have....I can prove that as well.

Anonymous said...

Jesus H. Christ, is it no longer possible to have a TYC thread that isn't dominated by drooling, knuckle-dragging, borderline retarded trolls?

If all you have to offer is "lock 'em up" go start your own blog... unless that's too complicated for you.

Anonymous said...

I only want to hear from people who agree with me.

Anonymous said...

The ignorance lies in the fact that all these youth will be back in your community. they do not stay locked up forever. shouldn't we try to provide opportunities for rehabilitation?

Anonymous said...

TYC does not provide rehabilitation! Don;t you get it. They say they do, but they DO NOT....604///YOU need some type of counselling, Thus is not just about YOU. You go to another blog, since you want only you or everyone to agree w/you. Grow up...juvenile thinker. And, quit cursing on this blog...go to church.

Anonymous said...

People the bottom line here is that these kids are going to return to society, with our children...and some of our children have been on the hot seat. So, let's try not to place a scarlet letter of permenancy on these kids and remember what the issue is. These kids need tthe academic fluidity to continue once they are released, the confidentiality that is required by law, and the support that they may not have had in the beginning. Legislature needs to place a firm hold on the law and policy of TYC and get that straightened out first, then put a tighter hold on the conditions of release, on the probation officers that may visit schools and have a hotline or something for the kids to call if the school situation is not going well, home is not going well, probation or parolee person not going well...remember there is not a counseling session for these kids or a firm support unit for they already feel seperated. School is the only forum they have to re-enter into a socialization, athletic and educational opportunity base that may turn something out of nothing. Be the potter and let the kid be your clay. Be part of the solution and not a continum of the problem.

Anonymous said...

I think for those students that want to return to school, the school should be required to admit them, if TYC thinks they should be put in regular school. I can see some youth doing better to return to an alternative school, but many could return to public school.

People on this blog have to stop speaking in such generalities. Not all facilities in TYC are the same, and not even all dorms within institutions are the same. There are variations and differences. All institutions need to improve but not all are bad, and some are good and providing good services.

Anonymous said...

The state would save a whole lot of money if they would just line these kids up against a wall and shoot them. I know the price of bullets has gone up recently, but it still has got to be cheaper than the alternatives.