Bryan ISD Investigated for School-Based Ticketing Due To Disparate Impact on African-American Students

From NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund:

In a letter sent to LDF, the U.S. Department of Education has confirmed it will investigate a complaint  that we and Texas Appleseed filed which challenges the “disparate impact” that Bryan school district’s practice of issuing criminal citations for minor misbehavior has on African-American students, who are ticketed at four times the rate of their peers.

“This investigation sends a strong message to school districts around the country that the government takes seriously allegations that police are criminalizing children in school instead of keeping them safe,” said Rachel Kleinman, Assistant Counsel with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

“We are pleased that OCR is pursuing this important issue and look forward to working with the Department of Education and the Bryan school district to find more positive approaches to improving student behavior and keeping more children in class and out of the court system,” said Texas Appleseed Deputy Director Deborah Fowler.

Ann Boney, President of the Brazos County NAACP, said, “We are pleased that we will move forward with this issue and begin developing a positive approach that will benefit all concerned parties.”

African-American students comprised only 21% of the Bryan district’s student population in 2011-12, but received 53% of all tickets issued last year for Disruption of Class and 51% for Disorderly Conduct-Language (profanity). While the Texas lawmakers passed legislation this spring ending school-based ticketing in most cases, school districts can still file formal complaints and send students to court for the same types of minor misbehavior.

“In a very real sense, districts like Bryan are using law enforcement as a disciplinary tool, leading students into the school-to-prison pipeline,” said Senior Attorney Michael Harris, with the National Center for Youth Law. “But research shows these matters are far better handled by educators and parents.”

We are asking OCR to require Bryan ISD to provide additional training for school police officers in adolescent behavior, conflict resolution and de-escalation techniques. We are strongly encouraging implementation of nationally-tested programs shown to reduce disciplinary problems and boost academics—such as School-Wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports. Our complaint also proposes:

  • Revisions to the Bryan Student Code of Conduct to establish graduated consequences for misbehavior that minimize missed class time and reserve suspension, expulsion, and police responses to student misbehavior to only those incidents that pose a safety risk;
  • Required campus-based quarterly reporting of data on ticketing and school-related arrests, by type of incident disaggregated by race; and
  • Intervention services for students who receive multiple Class C citations and/or disciplinary referrals and who are at risk of educational failure.

It is a common practice in Texas for school districts to bring in the criminal system to handle issues with students that many people should be dealt with internally. The school-to-prison pipeline in Texas is used way too often and it is about time the Department of Education notices. Hopefully this investigation will lead to the elimination of this disparate impact practice.

Playing Doctor, 10-Year-Old Girl Charged with Aggravated Sexual Assault

As reported by New York Daily News, a 10-year-old Houston girl faces charges of aggravated sexual assault after playing doctor with a young boy in her apartment complex.

The girl — identified as “Ashley” — was playing with other children in her apartment complex’s courtyard in April when a witness reported that she inappropriately touched a 4-year-old boy “in his private area,” according to Fox affiliate KRIV.

The family contends Ashley, who was 9 at the time of the incident, is innocent.

It wasn’t until two months later in June when the Houston Police Department began investigating the case.

The then 9-year-old spent four nights in the Harris County Juvenile Detention Center, after the sex crimes unit denied Ashley’s mother the opportunity to attend the 45-minute interview between the girl and authorities.

The charging and detention of ten-year-old Ashley presents a number of procedural questions that have plagued the juvenile justice system since its creation. Title 3 of the Texas Family Code, the Juvenile Justice Code, provides that children, under the age of 10, cannot be charged with or punished for criminal acts. Nine years old when the incident occurred, Ashley falls outside the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, which calls for the accused to be ten-years-old at the time of the alleged offense.

Along with questions of jurisdiction, Ashley was detained for four nights in the Harris County Juvenile Detention Center. The juvenile court typically reserves detention as a last resort for particularly problematic or violent offenders. Ashley, playing doctor, allegedly touched another child inappropriately. But the Houston Police Department (“HPD”) waited two months before investigating charges against Ashley, indicating that HPD didn’t view Ashley as a dangerous or imminent threat to society.

Finally, HPD did not allow Ashley’s mother to accompany her during a 45-minute interview between the girl and authorities. While the Texas Family Code provides that the child must explicitly request counsel, it does not account for the presence of a parent. Ashley, a ten-year-old, couldn’t be expected to request or even ascertain the need for counsel.

The issues of jurisdiction and detention make this case ripe for investigation. Hopefully, this young girl will get the justice she deserves, while also being appropriately punished for the alleged offense.

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: http://www.texastribune.org/2013/08/29/class-disruption-cases-head-principals-office-not-/

To read the new laws, click here: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/83R/billtext/pdf/SB00393F.pdf#navpanes=0

Photo Courtesy of The Week.