In a daylong hearing, members of the Senate criminal justice and education committees listened to testimony from more than two dozen witnesses who said that discipline is being too harshly applied in some school districts, that it is being unfairly applied and that tens of thousands of teen-aged students are unwittingly getting criminal records for minor rules violations.See additional coverage from the Texas Tribune. Meanwhile, Curt Olson at Texas Watchdog has a related story about a pilot program at Waco ISD aimed at reducing the issuance of tickets at schools. Under the program, students who
Under state law enacted in the 1990s, school districts can have police departments that can write tickets to students without even witnessing the crime.
Teachers and advocacy groups testified that what started as a safe-schools program has gotten out of control. Police organizations complained they are tired of writing Class C misdemeanor tickets. Courts officials called for reforms.
Last year alone, more than 953,000 students last year ended up facing police tickets and fines, kicked out of classes or school, even arrested for disciplinary violations. More than 120,000 of them got tickets.
According to a study by the Council of State Governments that tracked 928,000 Texas students from seventh to 12th grade from 2000 to 2007, African-Americans were more likely to be disciplined than other students. Eighty-three percent of African-American males picked up at least one “discretionary” violation — the least serious, mostly for minor rules violations —and one fourth of them received 11 or more.
used to be slapped with police citations and sent before a judge. Now, teachers and students are trying to address situations on campus through a program called Suspend Kids to School. The program is aimed at preventing students teetering on the edge of suspension or expulsion from landing in alternative education programs.RELATED: See an extensive new report released this week titled "Breaking Rules, Breaking Budgets" (pdf) on school discipline from Texas Appleseed documenting the costs to eleven Texas school districts. Grits may have more to say about this document after I've had a chance to read it for myself.
Gov. Rick Perry’s Criminal Justice Division picked Waco ISD for the $600,000 pilot project because it has its own police department, officers were ticketing students for behavior issues and Waco has close proximity to Austin. If Perry likes what he sees when a report on the program emerges from Texas A&M University’s Public Policy Research Institute, state leaders may reform zero tolerance laws adopted in the mid-1990s.
Under Suspend Kids to School, teachers receive training to better manage their classrooms, and leaders among students receive training in peer mediation and campus teen courts. The district also has a Saturday course to help parents address student behavior.
The early signs have proven positive.
The number of students referred to alternative school has dropped dramatically. The district referred 104 students to Challenge Academy, the county’s alternative education program, last school year, Waco ISD spokesman Dale Caffey said. So far this year Waco ISD has referred three students and estimates that with the reforms the district will refer 22 students total this year.
The number of citations for Class C misdemeanors dropped 42 percent in 2011-12 compared to a year earlier, Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said.
MORE: See a related policy brief (pdf) from the Texas Public Policy Foundation.