Two decades ago, if you were caught skipping school, fighting on school grounds, or caught with cigarettes, you would likely be given detention, possibly suspended, and had a serious “talking to”. But things are different now in Texas schools and kids are being ticketed and even arrested for such things. Not only does the punishment far outweigh the “crime” in many of these cases, but the punishment could start a child down the long road of a life within the criminal justice system.
Just like the “tough on crime” trend, ticketing kids and holding them criminally responsible for their actions may have started with good intentions. The intention was to keep kids safe. But, the practice has had unintended consequences, and it’s gone too far.
More than 950,000 Texas students faced tickets, fines, and even arrests for violations that happened in school in 2011.
But arresting a child doesn’t “teach him a lesson” and it doesn’t prevent future transgressions. Instead, it hurts a young, vulnerable mind. Rather than providing a constructive lesson, it provides a path to criminality. And it does this with very marked disparities.
According to the Austin Statesman, African American and disabled kids are the most likely to be disciplined in this manner. Eighty-three percent of African American boys got at least one discretionary violation, compared with 74 percent of Hispanic boys and 59 percent of whites.
But, before you think “these children obviously deserved it”, consider this case which is not unlike many others: 11 year old Collin was recently ticketed for disorderly conduct for hitting another student with a notebook after being bullied. When his mother complained, the charge was elevated to a Class C misdemeanor assault offense. Again, he’s 11.
“He had been bullied by this other boy,” said his mother. “The officer did not witness it. He was reviewing a videotape for something else, and saw it. He pulled my son out of class, took him to his office and questioned him.”
When his mother alerted the school about him being bullied, she was told “bullying is not a crime”.
Gone are the days of staying after class in detention. Now, when your child breaks a rule, they can and will be arrested and charged with a crime.
“This is what we’ve got to stop,” said Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston). “This is nuts. This is insane.”
Whitmire’s sentiments are echoed by other lawmakers, parents, and teachers alike.
If your child is charged with a crime, whether it happens at school or elsewhere, the penalties can be severe and their affects can last a lifetime. Contact our offices today to discuss your options and how we might be able to help minimize the effects of these charges on your life.