Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Whitmire: 'Ticketing Students at School Teaches the Wrong Lesson'

State Senator John Whitmire's staff forwarded me the following op ed by the Senate Criminal Justice Coalition Chairman that deserves Grits readers' attention.
It sounds ridiculous on its face: Young children ticketed at school for disrupting class, marking on a wall with pencil, using a cuss word, scuffling on school grounds, and misbehaving on a school bus.

These aren’t school-issued “behavior tickets” that send disruptive students to the principal’s office. These are Class C misdemeanor tickets issued by real police officers assigned to schools. And, they are sending thousands of Texas students -- some under the age of 10 -- to adult criminal court each school year to face fines of up to $500, community service, and court costs.

The vast majority of these tickets are written for Disruption of Class or Transportation, Disorderly Conduct, curfew violations (leaving campus without permission), truancy, and fighting where no weapon or serious injury is involved. Over a five-year period, Class C tickets were issued to 1,200 elementary school students in Dallas ISD. Houston ISD’s police department wrote 5,763 Class C misdemeanor tickets to students in 2008-09 alone.

Shocking? Commentators on CNN and national Fox News think so. Consider the case of a 12-year-old special needs student in Austin who was ticketed for Disruption of Class for applying perfume after peers told her “she stank.”  Does it make sense to send this child and others like her to court? Perhaps it is time to send ticketing to “time out” and question our own behavior as disciplinarians.

A major New Jersey newspaper made it very clear what it thought about student ticketing in Texas: “This is not something we should replicate….Schools should be prepping kids for college, not prison.” 

Despite evidence that Class C misdemeanor ticketing does little to change student behavior, the practice is widespread in our public schools. According to a recent report released by the public interest law center Texas Appleseed, more than 275,000 non-traffic tickets are issued annually to juveniles in Texas. -- many for low-level misbehavior commonly ticketed at school.
Appleseed’s research shows that minority and special education students, who are at greatest risk for school dropout, are being ticketed at higher rates for low-level, non-violent offenses. In a recent legislative address, Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson made an important point:

“More than 80 percent of adult prison inmates are school dropouts. Charging kids with criminal offenses for low-level behavioral issues exacerbates the problem.”  This is a warning worth heeding.

Students should be held accountable for their behavior, but criminalizing misbehavior and issuing Class C misdemeanor tickets at school is not the answer. Why? It is unevenly applied, a waste of limited resources to track and prosecute these cases, and teaches students the wrong lesson.

If ticketing is not outlawed altogether in Texas schools, at a very minimum the Texas Penal Code should be amended this Session to eliminate Disruption of Class and Disruption of Transportation as Class C misdemeanors.

What should replace ticketing? Schools, law enforcement and the courts need to be part of finding the solution, whether it be encouraging campuses to use positive behavioral support programs (shown to reduce disciplinary problems), training school police officers in de-escalation techniques and child behavior, or moving toward peer mediation and school-based alternatives.

Whatever the approach, the goal should be restoring responsibility for student discipline to the school -- in all but the most severe cases. How we discipline should teach students when, where and how to take responsibility. It can be the most important lesson schools teach.

Senator John Whitmire, a Democrat from Houston, represents Texas Senate District 15 and serves as Chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.


Soronel Haetir said...

I know you think my views are extreme, but at least there are some areas where we are in complete agreement. This is one of them.

Anonymous said...

As a Chief Juvenile Probation Officer, I say AMEN!!! It drives me crazy that TEACHERS call COPS to deal with petty behavior problems!! Which most of the tickets given out are!!

Anonymous said...

How about unshackling the teachers and administrators and letting them return to the day when it was okay to spank students' little butts? Oh, I forgot, that might tarnish their sense of self-worth, teach them violence and violate their parents' rights! I do hope that one result of the legislative budget cuts is that schools can start doing away with all of the counselors, diagnosticians, psychologists, etc.. Lets spend the money on putting qualified teachers into the classrooms and giving them the tools to maintain discipline and order. I don't think tickets are the answer either but this touchy, feely, new age crap has got to stop.

Anonymous said...

Isnt the Principal supposed to do punishment at school??? Why does the police need to issue tickets ? The police are not the Principals.
Principals need to do their jobs, not the police...

Anonymous said...

I could not agree more with this editorial. Schools need to do away with their police departments--at least for any purpose other than security.

There is another system being abused by the schools--one that goes hand in hand with criminalizing schoolyard behaviors--that is the alternative school. In the small town where I used to live, it was all too easy for the administrators to target difficult students and send them to the alternative schools for a semester or more. Students and parents have little or no due process in these decisions. The result is that the kids who need school the most get a second-class education, and get to rub elbows with other bad kids.

Our kids deserve better.

Anonymous said...

Another "Be careful what you wish for" example.

Teachers had the tools to deal with discipline and order in the classroom when I was going to school. Of course most classmates were also taught discipline in the home!

Our liberal society has eroded the classroom (lack of) discipline and order; requiring police officers to attend to "petty behavior problems".

It is a sad state of affairs.

Retired 2004

A Texas PO said...

I know a lot of teachers are fed up with these "petty behavioral problems" because their hands are tied. They can't send students to the office any more when they are disrupting the class because this action singles them out and can cause self-esteem issues. Principals can't enforce order and discipline because parents will sue for discrimination or defamation of character. It all starts in the home, but as Anon 9:43 noted, discipline is often not taught at home. Many time, parents are non-responsive to school notices about behavioral problems. Too many parents don't want to discipline their children, and they don't want to teach their kids anything from the alphabet and arithmetic to discipline and respect. I am not a fan of ticketing kids, but something has to get the parents' attention. As an Army brat, I knew growing up that if I misbehaved at school, my drill sergeant father would be called to the school to handle the situation, if needed. If he didn't respond, his commander was notified, and my actions could cause my family from losing housing on base. Unfortunately, there are too many constitutional issues involved with this in the civilian world, but at least those school administrators had a tool other than ticketing. I do like the idea of the school district police, prosecutors, and school officials coming together to find a better solution. The question is, regardless of how fair and effective, will it still anger people? I'm interested in seeing what ideas may be floated.

Sandy said...

If it takes police ticketing for parents to finally step up to the plate as parents, amen to the tickets! I've worked in two Texas schools in the last 15 years. It's impossible to teach anything. Parents are the missing element to this equation. Since schools are hog-tied in their efforts at teaching education AND discipline, it takes a parent. Parents are supposed to be the first line of education, including teaching their children how to behave in public. I think the parents should be ticketed, too.

Anonymous said...

Their disruptions make it difficult for education to take place. I suppose we should be politically correct and allow the disruptors to drag down educational standards even further. Do we wonder why all European countries surpass us in educational attainment?

Don said...

Sandy, apparently you didn't read this part of the op-ed: "Despite evidence that Class C misdemeanor ticketing does little to change student behavior, the practice is widespread in our public schools."

Anonymous said...

You can bash Parent's all day long. But the fact is you just are assuming, You do not know what goes on in the homes of these kid's. And I'm proof, I had a son who absolutely hated school and getting up in the morning.I fought with him constantly, He knew if I got ticketed for him missing I would have been angry. he was 16 and I'am half his size, so what do I do? So I called my local police three officers standing over him in his room. And his Father who has now come home from work. He still did not make it to School on time. Got there after 10am was counted absent anyway. The day we went to court The Judge did dismiss my ticket as he should of, I did all I could do. But through this time alot came to light about School, He brung home one day a recording on his phone of a Teacher verbally bashing a kid in his class, calling him a loser telling him it's hard to believe you even made it to High School, much less you will never see a College. I'm standing in line the other day listening to the people behind me talk. One was a Teacher she makes a comment about her student's she said, I swear these kid's get Dumber every year.School is a very unpleasant place to be anymore it's all a kid can do is, get up deal with Bully teacher's. All these lock them up mentallity's, lock them up to make my job easier. God Forbid I make a difference. After all they spend just as much time in School a week as they do at home.By the way the student the Teacher was verbal bashing. Got a ticket, for walking away. Teachers use this as abuse of Power.I have seen this happen time and time again. I have 6 kid's who had friends. Who are grown now. But I learned it is not all the Parent's every one should take responsibility not just some bad Parent's. It's I could do to get my kids through this Public School hell. These ticket's hurt these family's financialy. When family's are struggling to meet their mortgage and keep food on the table. I see were no one wins in this except a officer met is qoata, a teacher did not have to deal with what goes along with the job, The City made a few bucks, And the student learned nothing. Last I checked a 10 cant be employed.

Anonymous said...

Sandy, You need to find a new line of work. And in my day we had on School suspension what happen to that? That hurt worse sitting in that room being bored all day. Than my Parent's working longer hour's to met the bills, and my a school ticket. And because my Parents are working longer hours I have time to hang with my peers. So I guess kids could get disciplined if the Parent;s was not out trying to make a buck to pay a city ticket.

Anonymous said...

Hi..Behavior problems are so much different than criminal behavior.And we are treating these children like criminals and for these tickets, they can end up at TYC, juvy jail. And then they learn how to be real criminals there. Treat the behavior problems in school, not in court..

Anonymous said...

Don, I did read that statement. Did you really read mine? I said the children will never learn discipline if the parents don't step up to the plate and teach them. Teaching decent public behavior, including common courtesy and respect for others, needs to start long, long before a child reaches school age. It ain't happening. That's the problem.

Anonymous 11:55 (and 12:12?), I read every word you posted, too. Your message(s) is(are) full of poor grammar, incorrect punctuation, crazy capitalization, topical tangents, and incomplete sentences. It was quite difficult to keep up with your stream of consciousness. Makes me wonder what you did in school, besides sleeping through English classes.

Parents lead by example, whether they want to accept that responsibility or not. Our children follow our lead. The need or desire to be a parental participant in a child's life should have been addressed before it was conceived. Your six kids should not be my problem. I didn't choose to have 'em.

Yes, it's difficult to make ends meet economically, especially lately. Are you teaching your children the right lesson when you keep having babies you can't afford to feed? When you have so many children you feel forced to let them roam wild, fending for themselves, while you work 24/7 to make a buck? Were you raised that way?

Again, I say amen to the tickets. And the parents should be getting tickets, too. Perhaps the financial concern these tickets bring is the wake-up call some (many?) parents need.

Sandy said...

Oops! That anonymous post at 12:59 is mine.

Anonymous said...

Since I have complained when I've disagreed with him, I have to praise the Senator for this one - this is great stuff and much needed. Could not agree more.

Bill Bush

Anonymous said...

Grits, has this been published in any newspapers yet?


Anonymous said...

Well Sandy, wrong again I was a stay at home Mom by choice. My children today are very successful people. And all great Parent's!And no you were not involved in my choice to have my children, but you chose to be a teacher. So yes these kids are your problem and your responsibility to some degree.And Sandy my kid's have never gone a day without a meal. But alot of kids in this world do. Sounds to me, you put yourself above alot of people.And you put blame towards others. I taught my kids to learn from mistakes. Take responsibilty, treat all people fairly. I dont look at my kids as a problem. And I'm glad they followed my lead and their Dads. Your life, and your success is what you make it.And to treat people with respect no matter what race, religion, econmic status, are disabled. You may be a little better than me in the Grammar department. But I myself would not make fun of someone for Grammar and I do not Judge those Parent's who have to make ends meet. Are would ever place myself above any one it is just morally wrong.@ Don is right has not changed a thing.@ 12:56 you are so right two different things.

Sandy said...

I'm not a school teacher. Never have been, never will be.

One doesn't need to be a teacher to recognize children who are not getting education in the social graces at home. School is for learning reading, writing (duh), and arithmetic. That's what my tax dollars pay for - education.

Home is for learning moral and ethical lessons that build character and integrity, discipline and respect for others. When children master these social skills at home, they are not a problem in anybody's classroom. They do not hinder the education of those children who were raised to value their school education for exactly what it is - education.

And, no, I do not put myself on anybody's pedestal. I do not put ANYbody on a pedestal. I firmly believe we were all created equally, of equal value one and all. Unfortunately, that means some people think that gives them the right to abuse the sensibilities of others, even when it means depriving others of important things in life, such as a decent and functional education in the classroom.

Anonymous said...


crim·i·no·gen·ic   (defined)
producing or tending to produce crime or criminals: a criminogenic environment.

One thing to consider is criminogenic neighborhoods. These are places where criminal behavior is condoned and supported in a dozen ways, a hundred ways. It's a war zone. At first, in a given city, five percent of the neighborhoods are criminogenic. Nobody worries. Then it's ten percent. Nobody worries. Then it is twenty percent. Some people notice and they notice a trend. The intellectuals come up with a dozen rationalizations and denials.

Before you know it, thirty percent of the neighborhoods in a given city are criminogenic. It is now when the liberal pundits go to work. Anybody who expresses concern is attacked as ignorant. Anyone who looks at the trend line and worries if it will soon be forty percent of sixty percent is attacked as misguided.

Instead of taking these concerns seriously, they play the race card. They attack teachers who try to work in these neighborhoods. They are sure that they are right and you are wrong and stupid.

Anonymous said...

Sandy, I'm just wondering what did your Parent's do to you? For you to blame them. Are you telling me, are trying to convince me, at any time you never misbehaved at home are school? You must of had a childhood without friends. And if you said a curse word, are wrote Sandy was here on the bathroom wall,How in anyway was this the fault of your Parent's? I do respect my Parents enough to take responsibilty for my own action's. You on the other hand are working hard to convince everyone you made no errors as a child and if you did. The blame goes to your Parent's. Since you believe it starts in the home with the Parent's. The article I just read state's 275,000 tickets,now come on Sandy sounds a little high to me. Are you trying to tell me there is 275,000 criminal's in our Schools? Because now they are. These kids were in criminal courts in front of Judges being made to feel this way. And when did wearing to much perfume become a crime? This Teacher should be cited for abuse of power. Let's add to a child's humiliation and pain. Is that what you would do? Let's continue to punish the poor, the mentally disabled. There is alway's going to be kids that make poor choices, be impulsive etc..and I can almost bet not all will wind up in prison. But start them on that path in life and more than likely the number will be higher. Not to mention it takes away the attention from our courts, Da's, PO's who are trying to deal with serious crime's and serious offender's.Fill's our Dockets with Bs charges.But they are getting paid good.And that is the only benefit I see comes from this. Our County's get to pocket some cash. And kids continue to be kids. You and the Army Brat Po should get together. Did you ever watch Leave it to Beaver as a child Sandy?

משחקי אונליין said...

nice post! tnks alot admin!

Anonymous said...

"Home is for learning moral and ethical lessons that build character and integrity, discipline and respect for others."

Maybe that happened in the homes at one time. Does anyone believe this applies these days? We now live in a much more diverse society.

Anonymous said...

Bottom line:

Teachers and school staff are *lazy* and want to pawn off their responsibilities to others. I went to Texas public school in the "olden days" when children were subject to being paddled and this rose-colored BULLSHIT about kids being better behaved "back them" is laughable. We were horrible - but the teachers and principals knew they had a job to do and very rarely, if ever, had to actually paddle anyone. See, they were ADULTS, not cry-babies like Sandy, so they didn't have too much trouble handling CHILDREN.

So you can't spank them anymore - what kind of ignorant, useless morons are you people? You're not smart and tough enough to deal with some 5th graders?

Taking your collective bargaining rights away is too good for you if you can't do your damn jobs.


Sandy said...

I am neither a crybaby nor do I blame my parents for whatever it is that I'm accused of blaming them for. And I'm still seeing problems with the reading comprehension skills of some commenters here. I simply believe parents have a job to do and so do teachers. Different job descriptions, different outcomes expected. Parents need to parent, teachers need to teach.

Interestingly, toward the end of Good Morning America today, they aired an interview with someone who says it's possible to predict at age 18 months which children will graduate high school and which will drop out. Those first 18 months belong to the parents, not the school system.

Where are those parents?

rodsmith said...

the big problem is that it's impossible for the HOME to teach anything when the one or two parents in said home are now required to work 3 or 4 JOBS to keep their heads above water.

when i look at old notices about the future 40 hour week and how later it would more than likely go down even farther i just have to laugh. in the 1950's a family could survive and prosper and save on ONE salary. Now it takes each parent working 2 or THREE jobs just to break even. Is it any wonder the children run around like faral animals who have never had any supervison!

Sandy said...

Good points, rodsmith, but should well-disciplined children suffer through a dysfunctional classroom just because other people had more children than they can handle, both emotionally and financially? Is that fair to the students who actually go to school to get an education? Is unrealistic family planning (or lack thereof) the fault and/or responsibility of the public school system?

It's a tragedy that a public education has to cater to the lowest common denominator and teachers must become the parents, even though working basically with their hands tied when it comes to disciplining those feral animals you mention. To actually enforce discipline in the school system suddenly brings those AWOL parents screaming and yelling from wherever it is they choose to spend their time instead of spending it parenting their children. By then, their lack of attention to their children has pretty well doomed those children as far as education and job skills goes, not to mention the less than desirable education the attentive students must settle for. Isn't it time interested students stop being the collateral damage of some other student's slacker family life?

It's way, way past time for parents to step up to the plate and face the responsibility of having more children than they can manage, even if that's only one child.

rodsmith said...

no sandy it's not fair not to those students or the teachers. We are long past the point where parents need to be notifed at the start of the school year what the rules for their children are and that if those children break those rules progressive lvl's of punishment WILL be used upto and incluidng a good old fashioned ASS WHIPPING. The parents placing their children in the school at this point instead of HOME SCHOOLING will be considered agreement with these terms and wave any right to sue for anything that happens to their little dears inline with the punishment list.

V.Curran said...

Children are people too, they have their own minds and think their own thoughts; they even make their own decisions.

People are arguing about learning manners, ethics, and morals prior to school age...?

There are kids with behavioral issues that are ticketed, but this is not the issue, the issue is that kids are being ticketed for behaviors that do not warrant criminalization.

Focus on the problem and find the root causes then develop solutions. We all have a responsibility to all for all. What is the end goal of playing the blame game? What are we trying to accomplish?