Two new laws aimed at reducing the number of tickets students receive for things like disrupting class seem to be having a profound effect at Texas public schools. The Texas Tribune reports that in one year the number of misdemeanor tickets issued to students dropped by 71 percent.
Senate Bills 393 and 1114 removed certain wording from the education code so that students can't be issued a Class C misdemeanor ticket for offenses like speaking out of turn. Dallas resident Lakesha Wallace was one of the original parents that brought this to the state’s attention.
"There are other things we can do besides criminalize our children for their behaviors," Wallace said. "How about lets take an attempt to correct the behavior and find out what the root of the behavior is and then start there.”
It was former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson that charged state lawmakers during his state of the state address that a change was needed in 2013.
“Students receiving these tickets are often stigmatized; they often miss class or drop out of class all together," Jefferson said. "We must keep our students in school and out of courts to give them the opportunity for a path to success; not a path to prison."
One of the lawmakers that heeded the call for reform was state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston.
"A peace officer can’t just walk up and down the hall and if someone curses they get a Class C disorderly conduct ticket," Whitmire said. "Ticketing has to be a penal code violation, but it can’t involve school discipline.”
But even with the improvements, Whitmire said the state still has a lot of work to do. The School Discipline Consensus Report issued this week by the Council of State Governments (CSG), a nonpartisan group that helps shape state policy across the U.S., shows minorities and LGBT students are disciplined at a higher rate.
“African-Americans, Hispanics, the LGBT community are over represented in school discipline decisions,” Whitmire said.
The CSG report shows that even with the new laws governing student ticketing, minorities were disciplined at twice the rate of white students and 1 in 3 LBGT students received harsher punishment than heterosexual students.