Monday, March 14, 2011

Reading, writing and citing

Add Texas State Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston) to the growing chorus of voices calling for school districts to stop issuing Class C misdemeanor citations to students for disrupting class and truancy.

According to Sen. Whitmire's op/ed in Friday morning's Houston Chronicle:

Despite evidence that Class C misdemeanor ticketing does little to change student behavior, the practice is widespread in our public schools. According to a recent report released by the public interest law center Texas Appleseed, more than 275,000 non-traffic tickets are issued annually to juveniles in Texas - many for low-level misbehavior commonly ticketed at school. 
Appleseed's research shows that minority and special education students, who are at greatest risk for school dropout, are being ticketed at higher rates for low-level, non-violent offenses. 
In a recent legislative address, Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson made an important point: 
"More than 80 percent of adult prison inmates are school dropouts. Charging kids with criminal offenses for low-level behavioral issues exacerbates the problem." This is a warning worth heeding.

The problem is out of control in the Houston area. According to Sen. Whitmire, over a five-year period, Dallas ISD issued citations to 1,200 students while during the 2008-2009 school year alone, Houston ISD issued over 5,700 citations.

There is absolutely no need to drag young children into the criminal (in)justice center. If we stay on this path we are only socializing our children that their place is in the courtroom. It's time that school districts take back responsibility for disciplinary matters in schools. Schools should look at their behavior modification techniques and fine tune or change them if necessary. School district police should be trained to de-escalate situations instead of pulling out the ticket book. School districts should look to youth courts allowing peer-based solutions to behavioral problems.

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