Discipline programs in Texas' public schools were sharply criticized by two legislative committees after new studies showed that African-American youths and students with disabilities are more likely to face sanctions than others, reports the Austin American-Statesman. The practice of allowing police to issue tickets to middle- and high-school students for rules violations such as chewing gum, dress-code infractions, and sleeping in class came under fire.
Sen. Royce West said of the apparent racial disparity in school discipline, “For eight out of 10 African-American students, this is a route into the criminal justice system. Wouldn't it be better, rather than continue to suspend and expel them and then pay to incarcerate them, to turn this around and address the problem and educate them so they can be successful? Absolutely it would.” Under state law enacted in the 1990s, school police departments that can write tickets to students without even witnessing the crime. Teachers and advocacy groups testified that what started as a safe-schools program has gotten out of control. Last year alone, more than 953,000 students last year ended up facing police tickets and fines, kicked out of classes or school, even arrested for disciplinary violations. More than 120,000 of them got tickets. “If your question is 'Are we helping the kids?' the answer is probably no,” said Tony Fabelo, a national researcher who discussed the findings with the committees.