Act up in class, end up in court

Campus police officers — not principals — are enforcing discipline these days, reports the Washington Post.

Texas police issue thousands of misdemeanor tickets for offensive language, class disruption, schoolyard fights and misbehavior on the school bus. A parent must appear with the child in court. Students may be ordered to perform community service or take a behavior-management class. Fines can total $500.

Six in 10 Texas students were suspended or expelled at least once from seventh grade on, according to a new study. Federal officials say suspensions, expulsions and arrests create a “school-to-prison pipeline.”

“That is something that clearly has to stop,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in Washington alongside Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

It’s not just Texas. In many states, principals are turning to the police to enforce order.

Connecticut is rethinking discipline after students faced court charges for drinking soda, running in the hall and dressing improperly.

A Colorado task force is analyzing school ticketing and law enforcement referrals.

Texas schools adopted ticketing in the 1990′s, the Post reports. As more police officers have been assigned to schools, the number of tickets has soared.

In one highly publicized case a middle school student in Austin was ticketed for class disruption after she sprayed herself with perfume when classmates said she smelled.

In Houston one recent day, a 17-year-old was in court after he and his girlfriend poured milk on each other. “She was mad at me because I broke up with her,” he said.

Ticketing rates vary from 1 percent of students in Pasadena to 11 percent in Galveston, concluded a report by Texas Appleseed, a public interest law center. Children as young as five have been ticketed.

Not surprisingly, students who’ve been suspended, expelled or ticketed are more likely to drop out of high school and get into trouble as adults. But that raises a chicken-and-egg question: Was it the punishment or the crime?

 

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Soapbox0916 says:

    There is no chicken and egg analogy if talking about overcharging people for minor stuff, especially kids.

    I have seen the actual differences in the lives of kids that are overcharged and put in the juvenile detention system versus kids that are given a second chance and put in a mentoring program. I have seen too many kids turn out alright that could have had a very different life if they would have been thrown into the juvenile detention system.

    Foster kids lose their aid, their placements in homes, and officially lose their classification as a foster kid, instead becoming officially wards of the juvenile detention system. Often juvenile delinquents are separated from their peers and the school that they grew up in. Kids with minor offenses are thrown in the mix with heavy duty juvenile criminals. There is such a ripple effect to this that can impact a whole life. I have seen people struggle with homelessness year later due to minor technical glitch type stuff that happened when they were kids.

    I frequently work with those that work in the justice system, and while I appreciate their efforts, they are simply too hard-core to deal with minor juvenile stuff, and many of them would be the first to admit that. Plus stuff like a kid yelling at a teacher and a kid having a pill of their own prescription in their pocket instead of at the nurse’s office (actual cases, not making them up) wastes the time of law enforcement that could be focused on more serious real crime.

    So no I really don’t think it is chicken and egg scenario.

    • “… When you take away all of the teachers’ power to enforce discipline in their classrooms, when you rob principals of the ability to mete out punishments without having to deal with lawsuits and legal appeals, they will turn to the only remaining source of legitimate enforcement authority left to them. …”

      But in the real world, all it takes to mete out punishment within the school is a responsible teacher and a principal with a spine. Fear of imaginary lawsuits? Come on.

  2. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    When you take away all of the teachers’ power to enforce discipline in their classrooms, when you rob principals of the ability to mete out punishments without having to deal with lawsuits and legal appeals, they will turn to the only remaining source of legitimate enforcement authority left to them.

    Parents, as much as they might protest that kids shouldn’t be ticketed/arrested for school infractions, have demanded this. They don’t want teachers smacking their kids. They don’t want teachers touching their kids. They don’t want teachers scolding their kids. They don’t want their kids physically restrained in any way. They don’t want their kids kept after school. They don’t want their kids suspended. They don’t want their kids expelled.

    They bitch and moan and file grievances, protests, and lawsuits to “protect” their children from the people who are trying to civilize the darling little ones.

    Fine, say the schools. Screw you. You demand we teach your children, you demand that your children attend the school. You demand that we keep your child safe and the school orderly, but you won’t let us do the job. Fine. We’ll call the cops. They can do the job you won’t let us do.

    Tickets and juvey are incredibly sub-optimal solutions that bring a whole host of problems with them. But they are actually better than pure chaos, and pure chaos is the other option: teachers watching Lord of the Flies unfold in their classrooms, unable to do anything about it. Schools recognize this. So they choose the least bad of the two options.

    Parents need to WTFU (W stands for “wake”) and decide whose “side” they are on: their kids’ against the school, or the school’s on behalf of their children. Because the schools really are on the kids’ side, in the long term.

    • I was going to post a comment, but I would just be repeating yours. My wife is a teacher and she is frustrated by the lack of disciplinary tools available to teachers and administrators.

      • Human biodiversity is real says:

        Eric Holder, quoted in the article, is doing nothing to push real disciplinary authority back to schools and teachers. Keeping order has a “disparate impact” on “his people”.

  3. I went to a 1-12 public school in the 50s-mid-60s. Every teacher had a ruler and yardstick and used them. It wasn’t the first option; public humiliation, in the form of dunce stool in the corner, penalty writing on blackboard etc. was the first line. However, parents (barring widowhood, all kids had two married) backed up the schools; a second punishment waited at home. Visits to the principal (only admin and he taught 3 classes) were rare and repeated, serious offenders (inevitably a 15yo 8th grade male) were worked over by the HS coach, in the coatroom between 7th and 8th grade classrooms. That only had to happen once every few years. Not only did the school have no police, the town had no police and the county had no police. There was no welfare of any kind and no social programs.

    • I was shocked as a new teacher to have a set of parents (both of them took a day off of work) come to my school and complain to my principal that I had embarassed their daughter in class the previous day. The prinicpal hauled me into his office and the parents demanded that I apologise to them immediately and to their daughter the next day in class. I refused and told them that their daughter deserved to be embarassed for her behavior. The only thing that principal ever did to support me, he did that day. So they pulled their daughter out of my class, and she continued to get in trouble. The younger sister had me a couple of years later and was a model student.

  4. Cranberry says:

    A friend asked the assistant principal to give her daughter a (minor) consequence for a (minor) infraction. He refused, explaining that he couldn’t discipline her, as then he’d have to discipline everyone else–and their parents would turn to lawyers.

    Strangely enough, we don’t have police officers in our public schools, and the schools are reasonably orderly without a police presence. Of course, one must wonder if the school police officers feel a pressure to meet a set quota of tickets, to justify their presence in the schools.

    As a taxpayer, I find it inappropriate to send “kid’s stuff” to court. That’s a waste of the time of all the highly-paid adults in the court system. As we already pay adults to deal with juvenile behavior (they would be known as “school administrators), let them deal with it.

    • “…A friend asked the assistant principal to give her daughter a (minor) consequence for a (minor) infraction. He refused, explaining that he couldn’t discipline her, as then he’d have to discipline everyone else–and their parents would turn to lawyers….”

      The risk of litigation arises when schools mete out different punishments for the same offense *and* they demonstrate a pattern that suggests that they are motivated by improper factors. Most notably, there were school districts that were making a habit of giving minor punishments to white students and suspending African American students for comparable or equivalent offenses.

      Other than in the AP’s imagination, where has there ever been a lawsuit (successful or otherwise) based upon a parent’s complaint that somebody else’s child was punished *more severely* than their own child? In fairness to the AP, I suspect that he sensed that mom wanted him to take responsibility for punishing the child, rather than imposing a punishment herself, and he fed her a line to get her out of his office.

      • Cranberry says:

        Aaron, it happened to be a school with a relatively large proportion of mainstreamed special ed students. At the time, the school didn’t give out detentions–although provisions for such were listed in the school’s handbook. As several students were involved in the incident, and they had all earned a detention, to give out detentions to all would have sent some sped parents to their lawyers, as their kids had IEPs which called for other means of handling misbehavior.

        Different standards for the same behavior has a corrosive effect upon students’ respect for authority.

      • Michael E. Lopez says:

        Aaron saith:

        The risk of litigation arises when schools mete out different punishments for the same offense *and* they demonstrate a pattern that suggests that they are motivated by improper factors.

        This is simply false.

        It’s false in part because you don’t seem to actually understand what the phrase “risk of litigation” means. The risk of litigation arises when you look at someone funny. But it’s also wrong on what you think are the merits.

        Other than in the AP’s imagination, where has there ever been a lawsuit (successful or otherwise) based upon a parent’s complaint that somebody else’s child was punished *more severely* than their own child?

        Here you go — found an example in 6 seconds using this totally cool thing I found on my computer called the Internet:

        http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,461644,00.html

        From the plaintiffs’ attorney:
        “We’re not technically challenging the sanctions as being too strict, we’re saying they weren’t evenly enforced across the school,” said King. “There should have been some punishment meted out to those who were in possession of the photos. … It seems like the girls are getting the brunt of it.”

        This wasn’t even a gender-based lawsuit. It was pure and simple differential treatment for similarly situated individuals by a government official acting in his or her official capacity: the very foundation of equal protection.

        Now it’s true that when dealing with suspect classifications and discriminatory motives based on those classifications, the level of scrutiny that courts employ is heightened, and the actions of the school are more vulnerable to attack. But even purely random differential treatment without a trace of discrimination (say, the Principal flipped a coin to decide whether or not to suspend a kid) is subject to the EP clause and the DP clause.

  5. I find it really, really unlikely that kids just misbehaving are put into the system like that. TVA’s post is exactly right.

    And we don’t need to go to the days of outright abuse, as Mom recommends.

  6. Cal; i don’t recommend going back to the days when adults worked over kids in the schools, but I have no problem with swatting SOME kids on the rear with a yardstick or on the palm with a ruler. Some kids shouldn’t be disciplined that way, either at home or in school. The bottom line is that kids are behaving in inappropriate, disruptive, often uncivilized, ways and adult hands (both parent and teacher) have been tied (more lawyers, anyone?). Now we have the inmates running the asylum.

  7. It doesn’t seem as though common sense should be this hard to come by. How can we be claiming to teach critical thinking skills when the grown-ups in the building can’t see the difference between assault and running in the halls.

  8. ut I have no problem with swatting SOME kids on the rear with a yardstick or on the palm with a ruler

    Which is, as I said, recommending abuse.

    • Every animal that raises its young uses pain as a reinforcer.

      • Humans don’t. Not universally.

        Besides, you do know the difference between parenting and the larger society? Or are you fine with anyone hauling off and hitting a kid with a ruler whenever he or she deems it appropriate?

        • “Or are you fine with anyone hauling off and hitting a kid with a ruler whenever he or she deems it appropriate?’

          Pretty much, yeah. I’m also fine with a neighbor giving them a swat on the behind or a smack to the back of the head.

          Corporal punishment is not abuse. Raising children with no respect or fear of consequences is abuse.

  9. Bill Leonard says:

    I find some of these posts incredible. I cannot believe that we have administrators in public schools who do not know how to deal with problems, but apparently such appears to be the case…forever.

    Our own experience: Our younger son, was a big, strong kid and is now a big, burly man. When he was in seventh grade, he suffered a broken collarbone in a wrestling meet; one day after he was out of a cast, a smallish eighth-grade kid who had a reputation as a trouble-maker verbally challenged and physically attacked our son. This occurred at the top of the school ampitheater; after being punched, our son finally just picked the kid up and threw him down the steps, breaking his arm.

    The upshot:

    1. A smarmy, grossly overweight Hispanic administrator called us in and read us the penal code. The circumstances didn’t seem to matter to this clown (who ultimately was cut in a budget cutback; couldn’t happen to a more deserving jerk). I said I would be glad to see him in court. Our son was not referred to the juvenile justice system, as this fool threatened, but did have to be suspended for three days. We accepted that to get the matter finished.

    2. The father of the other kid called me and tried to get me to pay for the entire medical bill for the broken arm. I reiterated the circumstances, he didn’t deny any of the facts, and when I said I would send him a check for $100 bucks or see him in small claims court, he accepted the $100 and let it go.

    Coda: After a truly shitty middle school experience, our younger son played varsity football and participated on the chess team in high school, joined his older brother playing Rugby as a club sport in college, earned a bachelors in economics, and is now doing extremely well, thanks, as a commercial and residential loan underwriter for a smallish, conservative niche-market bank that has always used traditional lending criteria, and continues to make money — even in the 2008 market meltdown. Not tons of money, just a good profit.

    And so it goes.

    But I hope that supercilious administrative bastard who lost his job never got another in the public education bureaucracy.

    Bill