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:

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:

  • 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. ...
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.


Anonymous said...

About 46 percent of the population of TYC is special education. Yes, this is where public school sends them when they fail to give them the services they need. Of course, TYC desn't do any better at servicing them, either. And, special education at TYC has gotten much worse under the current leadership in Austin. They are currently under monitoring by TEA, while at the same time, they are running off good, highly experienced special education people at the units in droves. All the while, the leadership in Austin doesn't collectively have the special education credentials or experience to fill a thimble. Go figure.

Soronel Haetir said...

What do you expect when schools aren't allowed much in the way of graduated response to misbehavior? One of my family members moved from being the athletic director for a school (not in Texas) to the vice principal in charge of discipline. If you believe him even minor sorts of punishments like picking up trash from last night's game weren't allowed. Note that he wasn't wanting them to do so at night but the next day.

If that cautionary attitude is prevalent it should be no surprise that expulsion is often picked as the school's solution. Unfortunately I believe that expulsion is in fact exactly the wrong answer, as is kicking people off extracurricular activities and anything else that reduces participation. It may be more of a hassel for the staff but keeping kids involved doing /something/ is likely to keep them from graduating to even worse behavior.

PirateFriedman said...

"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."

The public school system is biased in favor of minorities, in my experience. Hard to say what's going on, but I bet you a huge number of these minority students were kicked out because they were victimizing other minority students.

In other words, the story probably really is one of disproportionate resources being directed to protect minority students.

The special education question is interesting, because we should expect someone with ADHD, aka a lack of self control, to make up a disproportionate share of misbehavior. In the public school system they were labeled Other Health Impairment when I was teaching.

Emotionally disturbed students should also be expected to make up a disproportionate share of antisocial behavior. Emotions regulate appropriate behavior, if you have an emotional disorder you are more likely to respond to adverse situations inappropriately.

I can understand that parents are concerned with the safety of their children in the public school system. Eliminate the public school system, and our children will go to private schools which have much broader discretion to misbehaving students, and will provide a better education.

Anonymous said...

@Pirate: but who is going to pay for that private school education? There is unrefutable evidence that most of these children who end up expelled or in TYC come from economically disadvantaged homes. These families often have other issues that prevent them from fulfilling their average financial obligations let alone paying for private school tuition. We can certainly move towards funding private schools with taxpayer dollars, but where will the accountability lie?

A problem that I have seen in working with the school districts and criminal justice agencies is an ongoing shift towards lack of parental involvement and a desire for the schools to parent children. We need to begin having an open conversation in our communities to engage more people to become actively involved. Certainly the economically disadvantaged will not be part of this conversation in droves at the beginning, but talking about the problem in our communities can lead to change. These kids need to be punished when they commit crimes or break the rules, but mentoring goes a lot farther than just locking them up.

PirateFriedman said...

" but who is going to pay for that private school education"


Anonymous said...

"Common Sense: Don't put persistent misbehaving kids in classes with kids who follow the rules and want to learn"

Anonymous said...

Here is my favorite recommendation by Appleseed:

Require TEA to notify districts when they disproportionately discipline minority and special education students - in suspensions, in referrals to DAEPs, and in expulsions.

So when a black kid gets in trouble, the school administrator must look at the numbers before making a decision on discipline. If there are too many blacks at the DAEP, the administrator can keep the unruly kid on campus or he can send a white kid to the DAEP to balance the numbers. How pathetic!

These are the same people that believe juvenile detention leads to later incarceration, school discipline leads to later incarceration, and now there is a new study that states spanking your child leads to problems later in life!

I have never seen such an anti-punishment movement in my life! Punishment is old school. We now have enlightned academics deciphering the data concluding that evidence based practices are the answer to child discipline problems.

How is this for an evidenced based practice:

"Spare the rod, spoil the child"

Anonymous said...

What a BS liberal report!!

"If the student continues to misbehave in the DAEP, this should trigger a re-evaluation of the behavioral programming that is intended to address that student's needs; it should not result in expulsion and potential prosecution for a CINS offense"

Once again, the system is to blame!

Anonymous said...

I've spent 15 years dealing with this problem and it has taught me these kids don't want an education. Their expulsion is another kid's learning opportunity! Kid's aren't learning when teachers are constantly disciplining bad students. Applesauce needs to visit these kid's parents and then they will realize why the problem exists. A lot of these parents view school as free daycare, breakfast, and lunch. The educators care more than their parents. Tired of liberals blaming systems for poor choices of people.

Scott Stevens said...

I have represented students in disciplinary hearings and my experience in my local school districts (Killeen, Belton, Temple) is that the districts define serious or persistent misbehavior as everything. Any and every violation of a school rule is serious and persistent misbehavior.

I believe that the intention of the legislation when it was first passed was that is be serious persistent misbehavior, not serious OR persistent misbehavior. The statute already has provisions for disciplining student for misbehavior that involves major misconduct, such as assault, drug possession and dealing, etc.

What was supposed to have been passed was a provision that meant if a student was seriously, persistently misbehaving the student could be removed, not that any student that committed any rule violation could be removed.

That's just my opinion as a juvenile law practitioner and someone who was active in the juvenile law section of the state bar and their legislative processes at the time this legislation came about.

Anonymous said...

Never ask a defense attorney if his client is being treated unfairly!

Insider said...

I worked as an acting adminstrator in a DAEP program for five years, grades 9 through 12 and 2 years at the middle level.

Here's what really happens, regardless of what district reports show:

Students are placed in alternative settings to get them out of the classroom. End of story.

After the student is removed and the vice principals breathe their sigh of relief at not having to deal with that student any longer, education ends.

The numbers, race or gender means very little after the placements are made. More times than not, the regular classroom teachers completely forget about their students who have been placed in DAEP.

The DAEP instructor is NOT the Teacher of Record and depends on those daily assignments coming out of the classroom, and rightly so, by law. When assignments are not sent (provided the DAEP is not a stand-alone entity)the student(s) sits there day after day after day for 8 hours a day with nothing to do. Nothing. It quickly becomes a house of horrors for everyone involved in the process.

Teachers and administrators who have never worked in a DAEP setting have no earthly idea of the importance that designation holds for students, parents and the monitoring teachers.

Administrators forget that parents do not send their worst kids to school for an education. They do not keep their best locked up in a closet all day. Parents send the "BEST THEY HAVE" and pay healthy taxes for their child to receive a free and equal education.

Long story short: They don't get it. Their kids are left out in the cold and the administrators don't give a flip -- UNTIL disciplinary problems arise which they will predictably do given the environment in most DAEPs.

The district does not want 'reform' either -- Costs too much. Takes too much effort.

DAEPs have to beg for every cent they get (provided the monitoring teacher even KNOWS there is a budget targeted directly for DAEP operation which is a tightly held secret in many schools), even though the school/district is getting the same "Average Daily Attendance" remuneration on each child enrolled there just as if they remained on campus.

Here's a solution: Require each administrator, principal and teacher including the superintendent, to work full time in a DAEP for alternating weeks during the school year.

When an administration and faculty see the pitfalls and responsibilities of every minute in a DAEP, THEN there might be some changes.

Until then -- DAEPs are simply holding cells which foster and create failing students, failing grades, increasing drop-out rates and ultimately,, if left long enough, a failed society.

PirateFriedman said...

"if left long enough, a failed society"

Society doesn't fail just because a few bad kids do. Don't exaggerate your importance.

Insider said...

Pirate Rothbard said...

"if left long enough, a failed society"

Society doesn't fail just because a few bad kids do. Don't exaggerate your importance."

Whoa, Pirate. Your perspective of what is happening in public education might be somewhat skewed. Have you ever worked in a DAEP or a JJAEP? Ever visited either?

A few bad kids? It's the entire system which includes local municipalities and law enforcement agencies who ALL sustain themselves on the backs of what they call 'the bad kids' which affects the society in the long term.

I might add that the kids who are placed in DAEPs are no different from your children or mine. During my tenure, student placements came from children of Superintendents, teachers, School board members, doctors, lawyers, cheer leaders, football quarterbacks, baseball stars, Annual Staff Presidents, Honor Society students, Newspaper Staffers, et al.

MOST of the students who are placed in DAEP are 'good' kids , Pirate, who just happened to get caught.

In Texas, it is a rare, rare occasion when SPED students are assigned to DAEPs. It just doesn't happen anymore.

That 'long term' is now. Have you checked comparative and declining results of the US to the rest of the world?

PirateFriedman said...

Yes Insider, I did work at a Fort Worth alternative school, I saw thugs and trash. Gang members, idiots. I did see one emotionally disturbed kid who wasn't that aggressive. Not saying there aren't exceptions.

"That 'long term' is now. Have you checked comparative and declining results of the US to the rest of the world?"

Show me the data saying we are declining. That's just another slogan to justify more bad ideas. And if you really have some data I might help you interpret it correctly.

I'm sure there are people who view criminals the same way you do. "These rapists are no different from you and me". No Insider, you are wrong. I stand by my statement, these kids are mostly trash, and I'll believe that until you show me some data to indicate otherwise.

I do agree with you that bad kids affect society in the long run, though they never are able to ruin it.

They are a net loss to society, and we're better off without them. The big question is how to get rid of them.

Insider said...

@ Pirate:

"They are a net loss to society, and we're better off without them. The big question is how to get rid of them."

Conversation ended, Pirate. You have no earthly idea what you're talking about - only preconceived prejudices that are representative of what appears to be a far right, fundamentalist, neo-conservative philosophy which is diametrically opposed to solid, objective reform, imo.

I'll refrain from sending documentation after documentation, study after study, chart and graph after chart and graph of how student results in this country are analogous to those in many third world countries. But, I won't.

Do the research yourself and absorb some facts.

I truly apologize for engaging with you on this thread. Live and Learn.

PirateFriedman said...

lol, well insider I'm glad I exposed you to the other side.

But just in case you're still listening.

Having lower academic results compared to a nation like Japan is not necessarily a bad thing.

1. There is some evidence that different ethnic groups have, on the aggregate, higher intelligence than some other ethnic groups. So in other words, the Japanese might have higher academic results no matter what.

2. It actually doesn't hurt us if a foreign nation has superior economic growth to us. It just means more people overseas who can buy our products.

3. Average academic achievement can be artificially lowered by immigration. As mentioned, Japan has little immigration. We have a lot, and our economy grows while there's stagnates. If our immigrants lower the average academic achievement, so what? They are still often helping the economy.

The reality is that immigration is often good for society. When they come here to work, they lower the costs of janitorial services, retail services, and construction. Each one of them is a consumer here to buy our products. So again, lower academic results could actually show America has a better system.

4. Superior academic results often require excess taxation. So money is taken from the rich and middle class to pay for schools, and that means less money for investments. Less motivation for people to become rich in the first place.

So again, lower academic results can be a result of superior economic policies designed to promote growth.

It may seem ironic, but there is something for you to think about. Don't always buy into the government's story that the state should use statistics as justification to take away our hard earned money with more and more funding for the school system.