Testimony Before Senate Jurisprudence Committee
on SB 393, SB 394, and SB 395
by Jeanette Moll, Juvenile Justice Policy Analyst
Texas Public Policy Foundation
Effective School Discipline: Lower Costs, Safer Schools
The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit,
non-partisan research institute guided by the core principles
of liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise.
The Foundation has conducted research into the state of current
discipline policies in Texas schools. Our research has revealed
that those policies are largely ineffective in reducing misbehavior and come at a significant cost to Texas schools.
Currently, Texas schools spend over $327 million on security
and monitoring services. A portion of this security and
monitoring is expended on the processes of issuing Class C
misdemeanor tickets. At least 100,000 and as many as 200,000
of these Class C misdemeanor tickets are issued to Texas students each year.
This use of Class C misdemeanor tickets does nothing to address underlying behavior, and in fact clogs up court dockets,
preventing them from dealing with actual risks to public
safety. Municipal and justice of the peace court officials report
that their courts have become the source of discipline for
Texas students and that they feel like school principals. Worse,
they have few, if any, tools at their disposal other than imposing a fine inevitably paid by the parent many weeks or months after the incident.
The Foundation has researched alternative systems that can
reduce costs and overreliance on the justice system for in school misbehavior. Pioneered by Clayton County, Georgia,
the “tiered system” of school discipline management requires
schools to try something else prior to sending a youth to court
for school-based misbehavior with a Class C misdemeanor
citation. Clayton County has used this system for five years, and has benefited from the resulting 67 percent drop in referrals to the courts, 73 percent drop in the incidence of weapons brought on campus, and 20 percent increase in graduation rates.
Furthermore, school resource officers report enhanced positive
interactions with students on campus.
Waco Independent School District (ISD) has begun implementing a pilot project of this system under a grant from the Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division. Waco ISD attained a 54 percent drop in tickets in just one year.
SBs 393, 394, and 395 are a good step in the direction towards
more effective and efficient school discipline. However, our
research suggests that in-school behavior management should
also occur prior to citation for Class C misdemeanor tickets
for offenses in the Penal Code.
In addition, we would urge a reconsideration of whether the
Education Code offenses need to exist at all. Our research into
over-criminalization includes the duplication of offenses in
multiple codes outside of the Penal Code. The current Education Code offenses, Failure to Attend School, Disruption of Classes, and Disruption of Transportation, all cover behavior
that is dually penalized in the Penal Code and the Family Code.
In conclusion, the Foundation’s research supports eliminating
offenses in the Education Code, and requiring in-school
discipline prior to court referrals for Penal Code Class C misdemeanor offenses in order to create more effective and costefficient school discipline in Texas.
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