Texas Lawmakers Decriminalized Bad Behavior in Schools, and Citations Have Plummeted

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alamosbasement
Two laws implemented last year attempted to basically decriminalize student behavior in schools.
There was a time, not long ago, when police routinely issued tickets to Texas middle and high school students for chewing gum, wearing skirts a little too short and turning their desktops into pillows. Students who swore were ticketed for disorderly conduct. An 11-year-old Galveston boy even faced criminal assault charges for defending himself against a bully, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

It was in response to this two years ago that state lawmakers set out to dismantle the "zero-tolerance" policies that were sending so many kids home from school and into the criminal justice system, for acts as minor as talking back.

Most of the testimony in the ensuing committee hearings focused on what seemed to be a racial disparity in discipline in schools. "We clearly have a problem here," Royce West, the state senator from southern Dallas, told the Statesman, "the same pattern that has existed for decades. For eight out of 10 African-American students, this is a route into the criminal justice system."

Late last year, two laws were implemented that redefined what students could get ticketed for. Students could no longer be ticketed for Class C misdemeanors, which can carry up to a $500 fine, for "disruptions on school buses or in classrooms, who trespassed, or who possessed drugs or alcohol on school grounds," according to the Texas Tribune.

And it's worked. Since the laws were implemented, the number of tickets written by school police officers has dropped 71 percent, according to the Tribune.

That drop will have a big impact on kids' futures, experts say. Research has shown that even one court visit for a youth can lead to more problems down the road, Deborah Fowler, the deputy director of Texas Appleseed, an Austin-based, youth-advocacy organization, told Unfair Park on Tuesday. Craig Miller, the chief of the Dallas Independent School District's police force, told us that unfairly exposing students to the criminal justice system has lasting consequences.

Now, Fowler says, the laws are doing exactly what they were intended to do: keeping kids in school and out of the juvenile justice system. She attended a senate committee hearing Tuesday that included testimony about the laws' effectiveness, and she came away pleased.

Miller said the jury's still out on what the dramatic decline in tickets written means. Next year, with another year's worth of data, Dallas ISD will know more about the law's effectiveness, he told Unfair Park.

Send your story tips to the author, Sky Chadde.

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14 comments
manpanties
manpanties

kids were getting in trouble for doing things kids do, then stop doing when they aren't kids anymore.  thats stupid policing.  I never saw a cop in my school and for the most part we did alright.  this isn't the same as ignoring drunk driving or anything like that, unless you just decide its the same.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

Following that logic, we would have far less drunken drivers if we just refused to arrest them.


TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

Research has shown that even one court visit for a youth can lead to more problems down the road...

The cognitive dissonance required to confuse causation, correlation and common sense in order to write this sentence is, frankly, Olympian.

roo_ster
roo_ster

1. I do support the lawmaker's efforts here.  Tickets and fines for detention-worthy infractions are asinine.


2. "Most of the testimony in those committees focused on what seemed to be a racial disparity in discipline in schools."


There is "racial disparity in discipline" because Royce's constituency is disproportionately undisciplined relative to the other kids.  IOW, they cause trouble at rates many times their proportion of the population.


3. "That drop will have a big impact on kids' futures, experts say. Research has shown that even one court visit for a youth can lead to more problems down the road..."

Yeah, I doubt it.  Eliminating the ticket does not address the underlying behavior.  If the behavior is not addressed with vigor, that behavior will land them in jail once they no longer have the cover of being a student.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

They stopped ticketing offenses, and ticketing for offenses dropped drastically?

That seems so counter-intuitive.

wcvemail
wcvemail

@roo_ster

Hooray for the kids who postpone their inevitable legal problems, as per your point #2. Absent from all these statistics is the teachers' viewpoints.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@tpfkap

Probably somehow racism.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@manpanties @TheCredibleHulk

Are we reading the same blog?

FTFB: "Late last year, two laws were implemented that redefined what students could get ticketed for. Students could no longer be ticketed for Class C misdemeanors, which can carry up to a $500 fine, for "disruptions on school buses or in classrooms, who trespassed, or who possessed drugs or alcohol on school grounds," according to the Texas Tribune."

manpanties
manpanties

@TheCredibleHulk @manpanties we are reading the same article.  I just don't believe that stopping this ticketing means that laws that need to be enforced will stop being enforced.  Before there were cops in schools looking for things to write tickets for, what would have been done with a kid caught with drugs?  I hope that some context will be applied to each case and the need for further action will be determined by that context.  I don't see anything saying that school admin can't call in the cops if needed.  

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@manpanties @TheCredibleHulk

I hope that you are correct, but the wording seems pretty unambiguous: ". . . could no longer be ticketed . . ."  doesn't leave much room for interpretation.

What do you think a lawyer will do with that sort of language if mommy cries foul when they try to oust Jr. after his second or third offense? 

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