State Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston, has filed three bills aimed at regulating the practice of ticketing students for misbehavior in public schools.
HB 350 would allow juveniles charged with Class C misdemeanors (the mildest category of misdemeanors) to fulfill their sentences through community service or tutoring hours, instead of paying a fine, which can run between $60 and $500. HB 408 creates minimum standards for the training of juvenile case managers, who help students navigate the courts. HB 409 places juvenile case managers under the supervision of a judge.
"Disciplinary problems are a red flag that tell us a child is at risk of dropping out of school," Walle said in a statement. "Since many of these young people end up in our municipal and [justice of the peace] courts, it's important for our courts to offer consequences, like community service and tutoring hours, that appropriately address the discipline problems while helping these students to stay in school."
A January report from Texas Appleseed, a nonprofit advocating for social justice, showed that districts across the state are increasingly issuing misdemeanor tickets for student misbehavior like disrupting class, using profanity, acting up on a school bus, fighting in the hallway and truancy. The report also found that the students targeted with those tickets are disproportionately African-American or in special-education classes. Schools' use of ticketing to discipline students is largely unmonitored, and the state doesn't require districts to keep detailed records on their practices.