Effective School Discipline: Lower cost, safer schools

Effective School Discipline: Lower cost, safer schools
Posted on 04/18/2013
Testimony Before Senate Jurisprudence Committee

on SB 393, SB 394, and SB 395

by Jeanette Moll, Juvenile Justice Policy Analyst

Texas Public Policy Foundation


Effective School Discipline: Lower Costs, Safer Schools

The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit,

non-partisan research institute guided by the core principles

of liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise.

The Foundation has conducted research into the state of current

discipline policies in Texas schools. Our research has revealed

that those policies are largely ineffective in  reducing misbehavior and come at a significant cost to Texas schools.

Currently, Texas schools spend over $327 million on security

and monitoring services. A portion of this security and

monitoring is expended on the processes of issuing Class C

misdemeanor tickets. At least 100,000 and as many as 200,000

of these Class C misdemeanor tickets are issued to Texas students each year.

This use of Class C misdemeanor tickets does nothing to address underlying behavior, and in fact clogs up court dockets,

preventing them from dealing with actual risks to public

safety. Municipal and justice of the peace court officials report

that their courts have become the source of discipline for

Texas students and that they feel like school principals. Worse,

they have few, if any, tools at their disposal other than imposing a fine inevitably paid by the parent many weeks or months after the incident.

The Foundation has researched alternative systems that can

reduce costs and overreliance on the justice system for in school misbehavior. Pioneered by Clayton County, Georgia,

the “tiered system” of school discipline management requires

schools to try something else prior to sending a youth to court

for school-based misbehavior with a Class C misdemeanor

citation. Clayton County has used this system for five years, and has benefited from the resulting 67 percent drop in referrals to the courts, 73 percent drop in the incidence of weapons brought on campus, and 20 percent increase in graduation rates.

Furthermore, school resource officers report enhanced positive

interactions with students on campus.

Waco Independent School District (ISD) has begun implementing a pilot project of this system under a grant from the Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division. Waco ISD attained a 54 percent drop in tickets in just one year.

SBs 393, 394, and 395 are a good step in the direction towards

more effective and efficient school discipline. However, our

research suggests that in-school behavior management should

also occur prior to citation for Class C misdemeanor tickets

for offenses in the Penal Code.

In addition, we would urge a reconsideration of whether the

Education Code offenses need to exist at all. Our research into

over-criminalization includes the duplication of offenses in

multiple codes outside of the Penal Code. The current Education Code offenses, Failure to Attend School, Disruption of Classes, and Disruption of Transportation, all cover behavior

that is dually penalized in the Penal Code and the Family Code.

In conclusion, the Foundation’s research supports eliminating

offenses in the Education Code, and requiring in-school

discipline prior to court referrals for Penal Code Class C misdemeanor offenses in order to create more effective and costefficient school discipline in Texas.

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