A New Law Stops Cops from Ticketing Students for Routine Misbehavior, but DISD's Ahead of the Game

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Simpler times.
There are plenty of examples in Texas of some poor middle schooler getting a ticket for chewing gum at school, or nodding off in class, or wearing too much perfume, or something similarly outrageous. But to those pushing to reform the way school discipline is meted out in the state, the real tragedy is the routine nature of the punishment, with tens of thousands of students charged with misdemeanors each year.

Those advocates scored a significant victory in the last legislative session. As the Texas Tribune details this morning, the state is stripping school police officers of their ticket books.

The change is less dramatic than it sounds, more a procedural tweak than a fundamental rethinking of school discipline. Students can still be charged with misdemeanors for routine misbehavior, it's just that officers will now have to file a complaint with a local prosecutor, who will have the final say on whether to proceed with a case.

It also doesn't touch truancy cases, which make up roughly a third of the 113,000 of the class C misdemeanor citations handed to 12-17 year olds in Texas each year. Those are already handled through the complaint process.

See also: A DISD Sixth Grader Was Arrested for Robbery Today for Trying to Steal $4 From a Classmate

Still, says Deborah Fowler with the Austin-based nonprofit Texas Appleseed, the new law marks a clear step in the right direction.

"What's good about taking way the ticket book is, there are a lot of situations when a police officer or a teacher [who calls the police officer] may be acting in the moment out of intense frustration with a student who is admittedly exhibiting challenging behavior."

Now there will be a cooling-off period in which to weigh whether the behavior was criminal.

Dallas ISD, where Police Chief Craig Miller has focused on reducing the number of tickets handed out by his officers, is already ahead of the curve. According to district statistics, the number of citations given to students has dropped by more than 75 percent, from 4,625 in 2006-07 to 1,062 in 2012-13.

See also: Activists File Complaint with Feds, Say Dallas County Truancy Courts Violate Students' Rights

Fowler and Texas Appleseed would like more districts to follow Miller's example. More than that, though, they are pushing for a more thorough decriminalization of routine misbehavior in schools. Even if the new law cuts citations by half -- an amount Fowler says is almost certainly an overestimate -- "we're still going to be off the charts" in comparison to other states.

Perhaps Texas Appleseed's ongoing federal lawsuit over Dallas County school districts' truancy policies might inspire a more dramatic change.

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15 comments
DeathBreath
DeathBreath

I say, "lock them up early, even in Pre-K.  It is never too early to foster the growth of a budding conduct disorder.  If they steal candy in Pre-K, their future is already written.  First, they start with stealing candy.  What is next, harder crimes like throwing spit balls at the teacher, wrapping the school in toilet paper, etc.?  The standards of America are slipping.  If we allow children to misbehave, they will need to be dealt with, period.  I think the death house is in their future.  But, first we need to send in the ISD death squad to squelch any uprisings.  Kids cannot be trusted to mind by themselves.  We need to instill discipline by whatever means necessary.  I don't have a problem with a six-year hardened criminal being the bitch of some prison daddy. 

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

If chewing gum counts as a misdemeanor, most of my high school would have had to have been put in prison.

Thalia Iraí Longoria
Thalia Iraí Longoria

I think this is kind of stupid. This very day, a student walked out of my class while saying, "Fuck this shit. You're a bitch." He was upset that I reprimanded him for telling other kids to fart in class and that they were "putos." While I don't think kids should get citations for chewing gum, stuff like that is utter bull shit, and now it's way easier for them to get away it. Cuss out your teacher, it's cool!

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

As someone who had to deal with a sinus headache on Monday because so many people in the Jury room at Lew Sterret soaked themselves in perfume, I wish they would write more tickets for that offense.

ruddski
ruddski

Now ICE, the vice squad and maybe the IRS will have to go after them. Well, maybe not the IRS, they'll be enforcing Obamacare.

dsmallwood06
dsmallwood06

A misdemeanor for chewing gum??? WTH happened to detention...

Scott Strong
Scott Strong

But won't someone think of the revenue stream!?

ruddski
ruddski

That's an age-old ploy to escape duty.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@dsmallwood06 no shit, Gawd it was bad enough I got a detention for playing pencil break, I cant imagine taking a ticket home to mom and dad for it.  

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

Even state pens have timeouts for punishments.

markzero
markzero

@Scott Strong They could ticket adults who wear too much perfume, instead.

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

@ruddski Nope, I stuck around until they let me go. Every time I got called to a court room, the case ended up not going to trial.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@primi_timpano so does the misdemeanor ticket for chewing gum show up when a cop pulls you over for speeding?  oh no, this criminal gum chewer may now have some weed in his car

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