With the rise of get-tough juvenile crime policies across Texas, the municipal courthouse has become the new principal's office for thousands of students who get in fights, curse their teachers, or are generally “disorderly” on school campuses – even in elementary schools, say data collected by the advocacy group Texas Appleseed and reported by the Texas Tribune.
The Dallas school police department issued criminal citations to 92 10-year-olds in the 2006-07 school year. “Several districts ticketed a 6-year-old at least once in the last five years,” said Texas Appleseed. Such tickets, often given for “disorderly conduct” or “classroom disruption,” typically are handled in municipal courts or by county justices of the peace and can have fines of between $250 to $500, though some courts route many students into community service in lieu of fines. The boom in ticket-writing over the last decade or more tracks with the boom in the creation of school district police departments. In 1989, only seven school districts in Texas had separate police agencies. Today, more than 160 departments are attached to districts. The trend fits into what Texas Appleseed researchers and others view as a dangerous melding of education and criminal justice that introduces children to the law enforcement arena, often a precursor to prison as an adult.