With More Police Officers in Schools, Thousands of Texas Students Wind Up In Court Each Year

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On Tuesday, Eric told you about a DISD sixth-grader who was arrested at his school, DISD's Learning Alternative Center for Empowering Youth, after attempting to steal $4 from a classmate. After his target felt the sixth-grader's hand in his pocket and pulled away, the frustrated would-be thief knocked him to the ground. The victim immediately tracked down two Dallas police officers working off-duty at the school and asked to press charges. The sixth-grader was arrested and taken to Dallas County's juvenile justice center, where he's being charged with robbery.

The incident started a furious debate in the comments section about police issuing criminal citations in schools. Over the past decade or so, this has become an increasingly common story in Texas schools, and, as The New York Times reports today, across the nation. Thousands of children each year face Class C misdemeanor charges for relatively minor disruptions, the paper writes, vaulting them into a legal process where they often face those charges without legal aid and with a chance of ending up with a lasting black mark on their records, as well as court fines and many hours of community service. (The ACLU has tracked a huge number of these cases nationwide, including the infamous example of Texas honor student Diane Tran, jailed for missing class. Tran was working two jobs to support herself and her siblings after her parents divorced and her mother left the state.)

And surprise surprise, these types of criminal charges appear to be most common in Texas: Students here are written more than 100,000 tickets each year.

That number comes from Deborah Fowler, deputy director of Texas Appleseed, an Austin-based legal advocacy center for juveniles. And Texas Appleseed has come to believe that the tickets are disproportionately issued in some districts to a certain kind of student: the non-white kind. In February, along with the Brazos County chapter of the NAACP, they filed a complaint with the federal Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights. It alleges that black students in Bryan are ticketed at four times the rate of white ones, and tells one of their stories:

Featured in the complaint is De'Angelo Rollins, who was 12 and had just started at a Bryan middle school in 2010 when he and another boy scuffled and were given citations. After repeated court appearances, De'Angelo pleaded no contest, paid a fine of $69 and was sentenced to 20 hours of community service and four months' probation.

"They said this will stay on his record unless we go back when he is 17 and get it expunged," said his mother, Marjorie Holmon.

In the wake of the Newtown murders, more and more school districts across the country are clamoring for cops in their schools to help prevent or deter crime. Yet here in Texas, we also seem to be ahead of the curve on understanding the potential negative consequences of aiming those officers at students and fast-tracking them into the criminal justice system.

As The Dallas Morning News wrote back in January, after years of citing students for things like cursing at a teacher, shoving another student or even dozing off in class, DISD decided to make a change. DISD police Chief Craig Miller asked officers to consider writing fewer citations and more warnings. In one year, the DMN found, the total number of tickets was cut almost in half, from 935 to 409. That's a nice improvement from the 2006-07 school year, when we ticketed nearly 100 10-year-old students.

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19 comments
ebailey75057
ebailey75057

On Tuesday, Eric told you about a DISD sixth-grader who was arrested at his school, DISD's Learning Alternative Center for Empowering Youth, after attempting to steal $4 from a classmate. After his target felt the sixth-grader's hand in his pocket and pulled away, the frustrated would-be thief knocked him to the ground.

Clear case of assault and battery, the student assaulted had every right to report the incident to the police.  The police had every right to issue a ticket to the offending student.  Not seeing a problem here people.  Whether your 8 or 80 a crime is a crime and if committed you should be punished.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

NVRS 3/5 boobs, mainly bc I am lazy today and dont have much enthusiasm or criticism in me today.  Have a wonderful weekend.


Actually, why are they issuing tickets, in my day you just got detention.  This is a fucked up development.  Hell, even if there was a knock down drag out fight, no one got arrested.  Kids have a hard enough time not fucking up their lives before they are 18, issuing tickets for dumb shit only makes this worse.  God, I could only imagine what my crazy mother would have thought had I brought home a ticket because I was playing pencil break, instead of that detention i got.

John1073
John1073

Don't break the law and you don't get a ticket or have to go to court. It's pretty simple at any age or race. We don't live in Springfield where the judge is going to rule everything a case of "boys will be boys" and everyone goes home happy.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

Cops do what Cops do . Visit a few schools Anna. Or do a  ride along  with the Dallas officers respond to the calls for the police from some of the schools with the higher ticket counts then tell the rest of us if you think the officers are needed in them ?

Stats are fine but firsthand experiences with the original reason the tickets were issued will open your eyes .

There are no simple solutions.   

Tom434
Tom434

The race card based on stats is bogus.  With only 409 the DISD and their officers should be able to audit the tickets to see if the charges were warranted.

Please spare me the tears about Ms Tran being jailed.  She was jailed for truancy which is a separate issue and completely separate from the citations for conduct.  Butts in the seats are money for the district, truancy costs a district money.  I would consider dropping the mandatory age from 18 to 16.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

Makes sense.  Kid is sent away and maybe the citing cop gets to go along for the paperwork.

And then there is the revenue.

cantkeepthetruthdown
cantkeepthetruthdown

So black and mexican teens get knocked up more often than whites...


It's whitey's fault.


Little urchin criminal blacks get busted in school more often than whites...


Whitey's fault.


Maybe it's.... blackey's fault?

bealotcoolerifyoudid
bealotcoolerifyoudid

Juvenile records are not generally available once a person turns 18, so the lasting black mark argument is kind of bogus. 

It's nice that you added a constructive criticism with DISD issuing more warnings. 

You say that the non-white kind of children get a disproportionate amount of citations.  Is that disproportionate in terms of percent of poluation vs percent of citations or is it disproportionate in terms of number involved in incidents vs number issued citations?  One implies a racial bias, the other does not. 

DallasGuy
DallasGuy

@John1073 I think the point was that the law was enforced more among certain groups than others (percentage-wise)... 

Anna_Merlan
Anna_Merlan

@bealotcoolerifyoudid If you're 12 years old and you have a Class C citation following you until you're 17, that's a black mark. Especially if you (or your parents or guardian, rather) don't have the time or resources or know-how to go to court and fight it. Then it can turn into a warrant once you're 17. I think we can all agree that's a little ridiculous,for a charge like shoving someone or falling asleep.

Texas Appleseed argues that the arrest and ticketing numbers show signs of racial bias. They have a report on ticketing in schools that shows, among other things, the extent to which African-American students are "overrepresented," in their words, in the tickets issued. In Dallas, for example, black students make up 30 percent of the study body. Yet they get 62 percent of the citations. That's not generally a very good sign for the impartiality of your ticketing process. 

http://www.naacpldf.org/files/case_issue/Appendix%20B%20Texas%20Appleseed%20Texas%20School%20to%20Prison%20Pipeline%20Ticketing%20Arrest%20&%20Use%20of%20Force%20in%20Schools.pdf 


John1073
John1073

 @bvckvs @John1073 You're right. Nobody thinks. They just do. And when you just do without thinking, be prepared to pay the consequence. If that is too complex for you, don't steal or beat somebody up. 

observist
observist topcommenter

@Anna_Merlan @cantkeepthetruthdown  Oh he was there.  He said the AB were just a bunch of criminals and not true adherents to the white supremacist ideology.  In short, not racist enough.

tmorris19
tmorris19

@Anna_Merlan @bealotcoolerifyoudid 

It is a misconception that juvenile records are sealed at a certain age. The laws are very hard to understand, and change often, but Juvenile Probation Depts give out records all the time. I work at one. 


bealotcoolerifyoudid
bealotcoolerifyoudid

@Anna_Merlan @bealotcoolerifyoudid

There is only a black mark when the citations are handled outside the juvenile courts.  They should only be in the juvenile courts.  Most juvenile courts will offer community service in lieu of fines, I know that's how it worked in Irving.  Also, juvenile court records are sealed. 

bealotcoolerifyoudid
bealotcoolerifyoudid

@Anna_Merlan @bealotcoolerifyoudid

The overrepresentation claim is tricky. There were only about 25 districts reporting in a state as large as Texas and they were primarily inner city. We can kind of turn this into a lies, damn lies, and statistics scenario pretty easily.

In the same school I had African American populations of about 10%. One year the African American students were all either honors students or AB honor roll. The next year I had the same number of African American students but they were not the angels of the year before. Almost all of them were sent to alternative school as some point for everything from classroom disruption, violent assault, and one held a girl down while his friend sexually assaulted her. That group would get more than 10% of all discipline/citation issues, but there is no racial bias, they were the only ones commiting sexual assaults and fights with bloodshed.

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