Texas Legislators Grapple with Fixing the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Last Updated: November 27, 2012

This article appeared in the November 2012 Rural Policy Matters.

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Late last month, two legislative committees heard from over two dozen witnesses about the impact of harsh discipline measures for students in a joint meeting that began a comprehensive examination of school discipline in the state.

A number of studies and reports in the Lone Star State confirm that overall the state has extremely high rates of student discipline and that harsh discipline is meted out disproportionately to students of color and students with disabilities. According to one research study, 80 percent of black males between 7th and 12th grades had faced at least one disciplinary action. (Editor’s note: See previous RPM coverage of that report here.)

Members of the Texas Senate Criminal Justice and Education Committees heard from teacher leadership organizations about how discipline issues contribute to high rates of teacher attrition, from law enforcement officials who say some superintendents push them to give students tickets for typical misbehavior, and from parents whose children faced harsh discipline in school.

The two committees plan to examine how current state law criminalizes misbehavior in comprehensive review of school disciplinary practices. They will also cover the disproportionate treatment of some groups of children and the ways in which students are referred to law enforcement for criminal prosecution.

The legislators also heard about the newest study by Texas Appleseed, “Breaking Rules, Breaking Budgets,” which studied 11 districts and found that officials there spent over $227 million a year on discipline measures and school security. The study recommends lower-cost approaches to student discipline, including use of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports.

The Senate committees agreed to look at school discipline issues during the upcoming session.

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Local coverage, including a link to the Texas Appleseed report on the high cost of harsh discipline:

Read more from the November 2012
Rural Policy Matters.