Community Members Rail Against DISD Alternative Schools: "Stop The Pipeline To Prison!"

tops.jpg
Greg Howard
Alternative elementary schools used for discipline are a "pipeline to prison" and a drain on Dallas Independent School District's budget that should be closed, a group of DISD parents and activists said today.

Alternative school opponents waded across the unkempt lawn at NW Harllee Elementary school in southern Dallas to hold a news conference on behalf of their new coalition, the Texas Organizing Project (TOP), which has partnered with public interest law center Texas Appleseed to argue that the alternative schools fruitlessly drained at least $11.3 million of taxpayer money from DISD in the 2010-2011 school year.

Dorothy Robinson, a TOP member from Oak Cliff, told the conference about her niece and nephew who spent most of their youth in and out of alternative schools. Eventually, they both dropped out.

"These are two young people who could've been productive citizens, who are now nonproductive citizens," Robinson said. "To me, that's crazy. It's asinine."

Another member, Mayra Hurtado, said in an emotional speech, "DISD has failed us. I don't want that for my kid, and I don't want that for any other kid."

The problem with DISD's disciplinary policy, TOP says, is that students who are forced to enroll in alternative schools are swept under the rug. They're in a punitive environment where they're given boring busy-work. As their peers are learning, they're left behind. In elementary schools, it means they're not learning how to read, write or do fundamental math. It's a life sentence; they're forever worse for it, and all this is coming on the taxpayers' dime. According to Texas Appleseed and TOP, the cost per seat at elementary alternative schools last year was $57,746. The average cost per seat in DISD: $9,410.

Dr. Juanita Wallace, president of the Dallas NAACP, was at the presser, as well as representatives from the teacher's union and Dr. Jerry Christian, president of the African American Pastors Coalition.

"DISD has one of the highest dropout rates in North Texas," Christian said. "We've got to stop being a nation of incarcerating our children, and become a nation of educating our children."

The demonstrators said that the whole system is broken. It's designed to get disruptive students out of the classroom, as opposed to rehabilitating or teaching kids.

TOP has been in contact with DISD since November 2009, but according to Christian, "We have a board that does not listen, a board that doesn't pay attention, a board that doesn't hear the voices of the community."

If fixed, the smaller number of students would be able to study within alternative programs at their home schools, not out of sight elsewhere.

TOP alleged that DISD students are looked at as criminals in training, as opposed to what they are -- students, and works in progress. DISD made almost 23,000 out-of-school suspension referrals last school year alone. Four thousand students were charged with misdemeanors by DISD police.

"We have elementary students who are going to court for truancy," TOP communications coordinator Durrel Douglas said. He acknowledged that some kids are truly bad kids who need to be separated from their peers, those who bring knives to school or fight others.

"Ninety-seven percent of kids sent to alternative schools are sent, not because of mandatory infractions, but discretionary ones," he said. Things like not wearing a belt, talking too much in class, and wearing the wrong-colored jacket could get a student sent to an alternative school.

"When you take a kid and treat him like a criminal through elementary school," Douglas started, "you're going to get a criminal."

Update: Some commenters have been asking if the cited cost per seat in DISD elementary alternative schools during the 2010-2011 school year, $57,746, was correct.

'Fraid so, it looks like. Texas Appleseed got the figure from the Texas Education Agency, adding this clarification in their report:

While schools report a "cost per student" as part of the AEIS (Academic Excellence Indicator System) system, since students circulate through the DAEP over the course of a school year, the "cost per student" reported by Dallas ISD for its DAEPs is more accurately understood as a "cost per seat."

Just because it's unbelievable doesn't make it untrue, we suppose. The Observer reached out to DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander for verification, but he said he didn't have access to the figure. Fair enough; it was already past five o'clock. DISD did have this statement to say regarding the TOP and Texas Appleseed findings:

There's been considerable effort by the district to reduce costs in alternative education. Approximately $500,000 has been saved by no longer sending students to Dallas County JJAEP. In addition, Elementary and Secondary DAEP have been combined resulting in the elimination of several positions, including a principal, assistant principal, teachers, teacher aides, 3 case managers, specialists and administrative assistants. During the 2011-12 school year, the number of students referred to DAEP has declined. The number of elementary students sent to DAEP is less than half of those sent last year and the number of secondary students is also down. The number of out of school suspensions is down by almost half from last year.

And for those of you using this post as an opportunity to facetiously presume what fight songs these schools have: Whenever you utter the name "Coolio," yes, you are dating and incriminating yourself. Here's looking at you, TheRealDirtyP1.

My Voice Nation Help
49 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

TOP is starting to get boring with this false use of statistics. 4,000 tickets? YES, you bet. Should have had more. They are getting tickets for things like: fighting, vandalism, theft, drug use, alcohol use, possession, weapon possession, and so on. It is time to get real about this whole thing.

Tell us TOP, what do you want us to do with a kid who throws a chair at me? Hug him and give him a lollipop?  What about when he threatens to burn down my house? What about when he calls me a f%$&ing white b&^ch? The problem is, they get to high school THINKING this is OKAY. And where in hell did they learn this behavior? Meet the parents. Acorns don't fall far from the tree, friend.

I teach about 130 kids this year. I have a total of 3 white students. So, let's look at the math, TOP. ANY kid I write up in my room, what are the odds they will be a minority? Kids in the hall, at the buses? What race do you think they are? Are you saying we should excuse or ignore their behavior? Would it not be MORE racist to accept that behavior from them, to expect it of them, based on the color of their skin? We are trying to hold them accountable, hold their parents accountable. Tickets are the last resort. Not first. Last.

These tickets have a chilling effect on behavior, which is the intent. Nothing like having to pay $265 to get a mother to FINALLY teach her daughter the difference between,"standing up for one's self," and acting like a violent threatening witch.

Also, there would be more tickets, but DISD has an unspoken rule of downplaying all events. Tickets are NOT encouraged, and many teachers are intimidated to press charges, because they have to agree to sign on as a witness or complainant, and many fear retribution from the student or their family. I once went to go to court to testify against a student. When I showed up, I actually sat next to the girl and her mother. It went well. Her sentence for assaulting me---pay attention TOP, ASSAULTING ME? Court costs, a few months to a suspended sentence and a letter of apology to me. Man, sounds like Death Row, does it not?

You want to change their lives? Change their home, their neighborhood. Oh, and as for Village Fair? We need five of them, placed around the city. They need intensive therapy, attitude adjustment, anger management, etc... They need literacy enhancement, math skills... Many of these kids have no coping skills other than violence.

Hey, why not fill the alt schools with TFA teachers? Let them use all their energy.Finally, I don't ever want to see a kid go to VF, but when I am teaching 26 kids in a class, I have to think of the other 25, you know?

Sanders Kaufman
Sanders Kaufman

If your class is so out of control that students are throwing chairs at you - you're doing something very, very wrong.Most classrooms never experience such violence - so I would suggest you visit with one of those other teachers to find out what you could do to better manage your own classroom.

Then, instead of complaining about what a victim you've chosen to be, you could talk about what a great job you're doing.

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

She didn't say multiple students were throwing chairs at her. I'm sure if that was happening she'd probably just up and quit.Is it ok for kids to call their teachers bitches? How would you suggest managing that student? Or the one that threatens a teacher in any way? From your comment, seems like you're pointing the finger at the teachers. I'd like to see you answer those questions, what would you do?

sandra crenshaw
sandra crenshaw

TOP has been in contact with DISD since November 2009, but according to Rev. Jerry Christian, "We have a board that does not listen, a board that doesn't pay attention, a board that doesn't hear the voices of the community."   Greg, is Rev. Christian talking about the DART board on which he has served for several years?

kshimer
kshimer

Great book on how to stop the pipeline to incarceration is Ministry with Prisoners & Families: The Way Forward. 

Stop the finger pointing
Stop the finger pointing

I wish I could see that many people show up and start a mentor program at the schools.  Go door to door and speak with parents.  Stop with all the negative talk and channel that energy in the community.  These groups talk about what's wrong but nobody wants to roll up their sleeves and do the dirty work.  Volunteer to help with dismissal at a school, assist in classroom two days a week, trying doing these things and maybe the need for the alternative school would not exist.  Doesn't most of the School districts in Texas have some form of DAEP? 

scottindallas
scottindallas

rather than a "pipeline to prison" we must acknowledge these schools are like a weigh station before prison.  They're IN alternative schools for significant rule breaking.  Schools need to be able to deal effectively with disruptive students.  I think they need to be segregated from the other students if they're disrupting others.  

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

I have family who principals an alt campus in So. Cal. Most of the kids at his campus, as with many others, are usually ones that have been sent there because of a violent action (assaults, property damage, ect..) The interesting thing that I found out concerning these kids is many come from homes where violence is common (dad slaps mom, mom beats kids, ect..) If we're going to really begin to solve the problems of society, we need to begin at the home level. Make parents be parents and learn the proper way to handle up on their issues w/o laying hands on their kids in anger.

Its So Sad
Its So Sad

Parents have ALWAYS been the source of the problem. QUESTION: how does a school teacher fix the parents?

ANSWERS?

EastDallasResident
EastDallasResident

Geez - your the Old Dallas - lilly white, racist, Republican - a real PIG!

WatchingSouth Detroit
WatchingSouth Detroit

So they worry more about the disruptive students than the kids who are trying to learn?  No one is forcing the disruptive students to act that way.  If they don't want to learn anything, when they get out of school or drop out, they won't be able to get a job and may very well end up in prison.  I am more concerned with the kids that are in the classrooms trying to learn.

Ian_Smith
Ian_Smith

"And for those of you using this post as an opportunity to facetiously presume what fight songs these schools have: Whenever you utter the name "Coolio," yes, you are dating and incriminating yourself. Here's looking at you, TheRealDirtyP1."

LOL READING COMPREHENSION, Greg Howard!

"TheRealDirtyP1" 'dated himself' at the very beginning of his comment. Look. See it? It is right there at the beginning. Something about going to public skoo in the late 80's and early 90's.

DUUUUUUUH

Greg Howard
Greg Howard

Easy there, turk. Just a playful jab is all, nothing more. It's only fair to assume that I read his comment and comprehended, since I responded. And though I believe that age is a but a number, 40 is the new 30 (you have to, hanging out with Schutze as much as I do), the incentive to reach for Coolio as a gangster rap reference is a bit...mossy, no? Thanks for the heads up, though. Who watches the watchmen, etc. 

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

I took it as playful, no worries at all. I went to school in a district probably not unlike what some Mesquite ISD schools have. A mix of urban kids and cowboys, and everything in between. In 1990, there was actually a mandate of not wearing anything all red or all blue; guilty parties were sent to the office and forced to change into a gym shirt. Yes, I was one of these kids, apparently my red polo sweater trumpeting my affiliation with the bloods wasn't kosher. What's different between parents now and back then? Back then--My parents asked me why I would do something the school had made clear not to do. These days---parents would be writing news organizations saying their kids rights have been violated.

Bruised
Bruised

I was hit by a student in the classroom and the most severe penalty he received was a 3 day at home suspension and moved to another classroom. Should he have been removed and sent to an alternative school? I believe so. It is my understanding that the numbers for referals was considered too high by central office and our principal was told to make sure the number came down. My bad luck I guess.

scottindallas
scottindallas

 if the student had a clean record, I don't know that I have a problem with the sentence.  3 days, OSS is one step from expulsion.   You don't frankly provide enough info. of the scene and scenario.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

That $57,000 number sounds crazy-- for that price, you could give each kid his own private full-time tutor.

Guest
Guest

But you couldn't cover a security detail for each student, so each of your tutors would immediately be robbed.  Simpler and cheaper just to give each of the kids $25,000 "seed money" for their "distribution" businesses and be done with them.

Hey, I just saved the DISD $32,000 per troubled kid.  Where do I go to collect my consulting fee? 

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Its great these fine folks can show up for the meet and greet with the Press and voice their concerns about the schools handling of their kids .

But I wonder how many of them realized that the child they were dropping off at school just wasn't quite right ?

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

DISDs main issue is the fact they can barely keep decent schools afloat, let alone take care of their truancy/bag egg issues. Its why good parents have pulled their kids from the district and have moved to the suburbs..Its why i'll be putting my future kids in a suburb district or moving them to a private education, as this district is a sinking ship..

Steven
Steven

Sinking or sunk?

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Depends on the school and neighborhood...DISD is a mess and everyone knows it, yet noone wants to clean it up..

Chasd00
Chasd00

My wife taught at Thomas Jefferson hs for 5 years and has finally moved to teaching at a decent private school. She says our kids will never set foot in disd ever. It is indeed a sinking ship.

Alfredo
Alfredo

TOP has been in contact with DISD since November 2009, but according to Christian, "We have a board that does not listen, a board that doesn't pay attention, a board that doesn't hear the voices of the community." Translation means the DISD Board is not doing what I want. 

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

No, this school board really does ignore the needs of kids and parents.

This board is so busy chatting up TFA, Todd Williams of Uplift, the Dallas Citizens Council members, the Regional Chamber of Commerce, and anyone else willing to play you-scratch-my-back-I'll-scratch-yours.

90% of the kids in DISD are low-income even though there are thousands of middle class kids in the attendance zone.  Why?  Because every parent who can afford to pay for private chooses private school over being ignored by DISD's Board of Trustees.

The Board does not even pretend to meet the needs of the kids.

Thufir_Hawat
Thufir_Hawat

Poor performing High Schools in DISD are surrounded by neighborhoods where a quarter of adults don't get a diploma and the mean income is below $25,000 a year. I understand being frustrated by that, but can't draw the link to the school being at fault; that is a systemic problem. 

But it is linked to homes and caregivers not engaged in the education process, and parents who consider school daycare rather than an educational institution; it is not caused by schools' desire to maintain order in the classroom for the students who are actually interested in education.

Curious, or perhaps not so, that the $57M number is one of the few in the Appleseed report that is not footnoted or explained. But they put it in bold so it must be true, no?

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Affluent parents WITH DEGREES also have kids with issues.

The affluent kids get fantastic intervention at schools like Shelton, Winston, Oak Hill, etc.  

Other parents move to the suburbs to take advantage of districts with far more moral Special Ed leadership.

The poor parents, the working parents, get none of this help from DISD.  Because they can't or don't know to pull their kids out and flee to something better, those kids are left to struggle and disrupt in DISD.

It isn't the parents.  It isn't the kids.  It's a school board that ignores the needs of kids.And even if it IS the parents, aren't taxpayers paying plenty to provide the kids with some help?  Some calm from the storm?

And whether TOP's dollar count is accurate or not, don't we as taxpayers pay enough already?  Shouldn't, for the amount of money thrown at DISD, the kids be getting something better?

Go sub at Village Fair for a week and you will leave horrified at what you see.  

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

DISD needs to start meeting the needs of individual kids instead of playing money games, race games, and political games.

What goes on is deplorable.

We need 3 types of secondary schools:-schools for on-level kids with no behavior problems (including vocational campuses)-schools for kids with behavior problems-schools for kids who are below-level

On this blog, Diane Birdwell and I have both begged for campuses to be converted SO THAT EACH TYPE OF KID GETS WHAT THEY NEED.

Problem kids are often kids with tough, unaddressed academic weaknesses.Many problem kids are in need of intensive counseling and family therapy.

Comprehensive campuses cannot meet these needs and to force us to try hurts the on-level, stable kids (whose parents then flee to the suburbs to escape all the problems).

We must stop the revolving door at schools like Village Fair, where kids chill out for  6 weeks and get no help at all.  A hidden camera at VF would sicken people.  Literally.

It will not cost more--the kids are already in the system and using resources.  

I don't know how the trustees ignore these kids and sleep at night.

*this was typed with paragraph breaks...

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

Makes too much sense for DISD. Maybe if we started a vocational training charter school that hired graduates of top trade schools for two year stints and got the right people to sit on our boards...

scottindallas
scottindallas

 more compelling curricula and resources would help.  We don't need abridged textbooks that are sanitized of all compelling and contentious material. 

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

PFFFFFFTTTTTTTTT.It is simple They Comply with the rules or send  them home . Schools are in the Business of education not social engineering .

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

We can't just kick them out.They have a right to education.  It has to be provided.Also, we cannot make them truants by disallowing them into a school building.

They hold all the cards.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

 Sorry but That is where your wrongheaded thinking starts .

Los_Politico
Los_Politico

There aren't enough kids in those schools. 5-10% of my class should have been there, I think maybe 3 went toal (<1%).

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

I was in public school in San Antonio in the late 80's early 90's. We didn't have alternative schools, so the gang bangers and fighters were usually in class with everyone else. It was really fun when you got two or three of them in the same class to harrass other people; some teachers were too scared to do anything to them, right at the end of their careers and not wanting to die before they got their pension.There is a need for alternative schools, but in alternative, they can also be a magnet for what drives those kids. $57k per seat? Can you verify that Greg? That seems really high, unless they're factoring in k-9 units, metal detectors, and surround sound(I imagine the schoolday starts with Coolio's Gangsta's Paradise played as the school fight song).

Jay
Jay

Perhaps if these children had some supervision, guidance and discipline at home, from their parents, they wouldn't violate school rules, disrupt class, or dress inappropriately. Maybe their parents could attend PTA and open house events, meet the principals and teachers, learn the rules of the school, and learn why their children are such severe discipline problems that they have to be separated from the general student population and housed in a secure building.

BTW, I don't buy that $57,746 a seat for alternative school. Any way to check that supposed fact Greg?

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Research has shown that children do better in school if their parents spend time at the school.

More parent time = better student performance.

TexasParentsOptOutStateTests
TexasParentsOptOutStateTests

So what are these "alternative" schools doing to promote parental involvement?

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Nothing.But even if they were, you cannot make parents show up and the kids are often the way they are bc of the adults they live with.Now and then a judge can make a parent attend school for a day with their child.

JosephJ
JosephJ

Kids who are encouraged and motivated actually like school. Readers (kids who read) should be privileged to the same amount of time and energy you exert while seated in bleachers. Take a chance and try something different. I guarantee kids will laugh and also learn.  www.jammertime.net   

Geez
Geez

Greg, did you not know that TOP is just the new name for ACORN???????

trudat
trudat

...this is just more disinformation...just for your info; their is no new ACORN.  The people who were in ACORN have gone in various different directions.  People who agreed with things that ACORN agreed with are in new and old organizations just as they were before and during the "time" of ACORN.  Some are even in "no" organization.

Dss
Dss

 TOP sure is doing a lot to clean up Texas...

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...