Last year, Texas Appleseed, an organization committed to changing laws and policies for all Texans to reach their full potential, released a report that spread across the nation, even sparking an investigation by the Department of Justice.
Texas has a history of enforcing harsh punishment, and that has been applied to our state’s students as well. From zero-tolerance policies to an increase in reliance on courts to address misbehavior in the student body, the school-to-prison pipeline has long been established.
Moreover, it has put many of our students on a path to dropping out and, ultimately, incarceration.
Punishment in Schools
The school-to-prison pipeline that Texas is so often accused of refers to the disproportionate use of policies and cuts to funding for lower income schools. It becomes a cruel but cost-saving measure to take students out of class and place them in the juvenile justice system instead.
These policies most commonly target African-American and Latino students and communities.
The State of Texas considers truancy—or the failure to attend school—a crime. To some people, this might sound like reasonable means for keeping kids in schools. One of the issues here is that many students are sent to adult court, and truancy is punishable by fines up to $500, not including court costs.
Another problem is that judges have a very wide scope of additional penalties available to them. These include mandatory counseling, community service, ankle bracelets, or being forced out of school.
Our National Priorities
Earlier this summer, the Department of Education released a national report that revealed startling numbers in terms of what the country spends on prisons versus schools. One way to look at our national priorities is to examine how we spend our money.
For instance, the report revealed that every state spends less money on pre-K–12 education than they do on correctional facilities. Funding for public universities has also stagnated for decades, while spending on prisons has increased dramatically.
These policies, and the way that they are applied, tend to harm children in low-income areas and even those with disabilities. The idea behind our state’s truancy policies begins to seem outdated once you consider that these children aren’t just skipping school to have fun with their friends.
Oftentimes, they have other reasons, ranging from having to care for their family or even dealing with homelessness.
Thanks to organizations like Texas Appleseed, the school-to-prison pipeline is being addressed, and changes are being made to these unjust policies. However, changing the law can take time.
If you or your child find yourselves the victim of these unjust practices, Thiessen Law Firm is fully equipped to handle juvenile cases. Call us today at 713-864-9000 or visit us online to schedule your free consultation!