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Recognizing and Combating the School-To-Prison Pipeline in Texas

NCJ Number
Wallace B. Jefferson
Date Published
6 pages
After presenting two Texas studies that show a link between a youth's violation of and punishment for school discipline rules and subsequent involvement with the juvenile justice system, this paper describes what is being done in Texas to counter this link.
Five findings are summarized from the studies. First, suspensions and expulsions are common in schools today. Second, "ticketing" is also common, used most often to punish students for low-level, nonviolent offenses such as disruption of class, disorderly conduct, and truancy. Third, most school disciplinary actions occur at the discretion of school officials and are not the result of behaviors that mandate expulsion or suspension from school. Fourth, students who are suspended or expelled are more likely to repeat a grade or drop out of school, especially when disciplined repeatedly. Fifth, school discipline increases exposure to the justice system. In responding to these findings, Texas school officials, juvenile justice officials, legislators, and the judiciary have been exploring ways to assess and reform the current system for managing problem behaviors in Texas schools. Actions taken by the legislature include easing the State's "zero tolerance" law by requiring school districts to consider mitigating circumstances, including self-defense, intent, disciplinary history, and a student's disability before making disciplinary decision. The Texas Legislature also repealed a statutory provision that allowed school districts to charge students with a Class C Misdemeanor for any code-of-conduct violation, eliminated "persistent" misbehavior" as a reason for expulsion, eliminated "ticketing" of young students for nonviolent misbehavior and truancy, and reserved ticketing of older students as a last resort. At the local level, a growing number of Texas school districts have adopted Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports systems (Council of State Governments, 2011:11). Performance criteria for addressing the "school-to-prison pipeline" are recommended. 2 figures and 16 resource listings