Report Decries "Criminalization" of School Misbehavior

Feb. 1, 2011
A study of discipline methods at public schools in Texas.

A study of discipline methods at public schools in Texas concludes that districts are increasingly relying on discipline strategies that introduce them to the justice system or expose children to policing techniques that are more commonly used with adults.

"Texas’ School-to-Prison Pipeline: Ticketing, Arrest & Use of Force in Schools," a study conducted by Texas Appleseed, a nonprofit research and advocacy group focusing on social and economic justice, contends that schools in Texas too often are using the criminal system to deal with school-related misbehavior.

"Disrupting class, using profanity, misbehaving on a school bus, student fights, and truancy once meant a trip to the principal’s office," the report says. "Today, such misbehavior results in a Class C misdemeanor ticket and a trip to court for thousands of Texas students and their families each year."

Texas Appleseed estimates that more than 275,000 non-traffic tickets are issued to juveniles each year—most issued for offenses most commonly linked to school-related conduct problems. The report also says that as school counselors have become burdened with more duties, administrators are relying more on school resource officers or other security personnel to handle student behavior problems.

The group urges Texas schools to focus more on prevention and intervention programs to improve student discipline.

"Texas can interrupt this destructive cycle and prevent the loss of more young people to the ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ through early interventions focused less on punishment and more on creating positive school environments that address students’ academic and behavioral needs," the report states.

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