Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Exporting a bad idea

Even the Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, Wallace Jefferson, thinks issuing Class C citations to students for "disrupting class" is a bad idea.

According to this article from the Guardian, Judge Jefferson thinks introducing children to the criminal (in)justice system is helping drive them to jail. Even the US Attorney General, Eric Holder, thinks it's a bad idea.

It appears that the British government is looking to take cues from the Lone Star State in dealing with juveniles. Crispin Blunt, the UK's justice minister, toured juvenile courts and detention centers in Texas this fall on a fact-finding mission.

Emulating the way in which Texas handles its school disciplinary issues will only succeed in introducing more young people to the criminal (in)justice system. The most common citation issued to students in Texas is "disrupting class." Can you imagine a more nebulous term? What constitutes a disruption serious enough to warrant charging a student with a criminal offense?

Do we really need to make kids miss class to attend court because they spoke out of turn? Because they made an inappropriate joke? Because they insulted another student? Because they took too long coming back from a potty break?

And what are the leaders of the Texas State Teachers Association took no position on the issue when the legislature last debated it. The head of the union said that most of his members are in favor of issuing criminal citations to students.

And what message is that sending? The job of our schools is to educate our youth, not to socialize them in the workings of the criminal (in)justice system. Those who support the current law, and those who take no position, are doing our children a grave injustice.

Instead of looking for excuses to enter people into the criminal (in)justice system, we should be looking for ways to keep them out.

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