New Texas Laws – School Citations for Class C Misdemeanors

some-texas-students-are-being-ticketed-and-sent-to-court-for-leaving-class-early-or-using-profanityDuring this past session, the Texas legislature enrolled several laws with the hope of significantly reducing the number of children charged with Class C Misdemeanors while at school (commonly referred to as student ticketing).  While these new laws seem to encourage schools to apply alternate methods for addressing student behavior, nothing actually prevents schools from continuing the practice of student ticketing. In other words, these new laws seem to be all BARK and NO BITE…

The new laws merely replace the word “citation” with the word “complaint.” School police officers cannot issue citations but can submit complaints. In a recent article, the Texas Tribune suggests that this will reduce the number of children charged, because the local prosecutor will have discretion “whether to charge the student with a Class C Misdemeanor” or not based on the complaint. This is misleading, because prosecutors always had complete discretion to charge or dismiss citations. Therefore, it is not clear how issuing complaints instead of citations will significantly reduce student ticketing.

To read the entire Texas Tribune article, click here:

To read the new laws, click here:

Photo Courtesy of The Week.

Friday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

New Jersey Juveniles Now Entitled to Hearings Before Transfer to State Prisons, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE)

In August, a state appeals court panel ruled that New Jersey juveniles currently housed in youth detention facilities were entitled to hearings before being transferred to adult prisons, according to The Record.

The three-judge appeals panel overturned the transfer of a Cumberland County man – a juvenile at the time of committing his crimes – who was sent to South Woods State Prison in November 2011. Following the decision, a Juvenile Justice Commission Staff will now be required to hold hearings that will allow the detainee to challenge the legality of the transfer, The Record reported.

Lawmakers fume over raises for top officials at troubled juvenile justice agency, Austin American-Statesman

While other state agencies were freezing positions and downsizing because of the tight economy, the state’s juvenile corrections department handed out pay raises in March to 13 top officials — even as the agency was mired in controversy over its inability to curb violence and gang activity at its lockups.

Angry legislative leaders said Thursday that some of the pay hikes, which ranged from $3,500 a year to $14,700, appear to violate Texas law.

The reason: A state budget law banned raises for at least two of the jobs.

Michael Griffiths: The TT Interview, Texas Tribune

On Monday, Griffiths will become the new executive director of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. The 13-member board voted 7-6 to hire him to replace Jay Kimbrough, who has temporarily led the department since the retirement of Cherie Townsend in May.

[Ed. Note: Click the link above to read an edited transcript of the Texas Tribune’s conversation with the TJJD’s new executive director.]

NO Throw Away Kids

I am deeply troubled by yesterday’s article in the Texas Tribune about kids in juvenile justice facilities being assessed in order to transfer the so-called bad ones to adult facilities. Jay Kimbrough, interim Executive Director of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD), and Texas State Senator John Whitmire seem to think sending these children to adult facilities will prevent them from acting out violently and hold them “accountable.”

The reality is that these children will only learn more violent behaviors and will become the victims in a more violent and dangerous environment. I recently toured a high security Texas prison with one of my law school classes. It was far from a controlled, peaceful place. Guards told us about the prevalence of assaults both on other inmates and prison staff. According to a 2010 article in the Houston Chronicle, Texas prisons lead the nation in prison sexual abuse. Just Detention International found that “5 out of 10 prisons with the highest rate of sexual abuse in the country are in Texas.”

Sending these children to adult facilities is not for their benefit and does not benefit society. Shipping these kids to the adult system only communicates that we think you are un-saveable, and we refuse to try to help you anymore, essentially throw away kids. Personally, I do not believe in throw away kids.

Dr. Bruce Perry is an international authority in the area of child maltreatment and the impact of trauma and neglect on the developing brain. Dr. Perry believes that no child is unreachable, but instead needs the opportunity for repetitive therapeutic pattern activities to develop the appropriate coping and behavioral skills. In his article titled Keep the Cool in School, Promoting Non-Violent Behavior in Children, Dr. Perry states that “promoting a child’s emotional health is the most successful approach available to fighting violence.”

We are so quick to blame the kids when the systems designed to help them do not work. Maybe we should focus on why these systems are failing to rehabilitate these children?