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TX Education Advocates: School Discipline Policies Falling Behind Research

December 8, 2011

DALLAS - A new coalition of education, civil-rights and faith-based activists says many Texas schools are behind the curve when it comes to disciplinary policies. Recent studies have shown that a heavy reliance on expulsions and suspensions tends to be counter-productive. Still, most districts leave such decisions to overworked teachers and administrators, according to members of the Coalition for Education Not Incarceration.

The group and its allies are forming a "human chain" in front of Dallas' Wade Juvenile Justice Center today at 11 a.m., demanding that trustees address the so-called school-to-prison-pipeline problem. Allison Brim, organizing director for Dallas County Texas Organizing Project (TOP), says the data is clear, and now it is time for new policies.

"We're ready to do what it takes to physically unite and push forward until the Dallas School Board takes action on this."

Brim says unless teachers get more support, guidance and resources to handle behavioral problems more productively, schools will continue "criminalizing" the normal misbehavior of very young children.

"Students as young as 6 years old are given class-c misdemeanor tickets for disrupting the class, or getting in a schoolyard fight; they're suspended for three days for coming to school with their shirts untucked or wearing flip-flops."

She says some Texas districts have seen success with alternative approaches - such as Positive Behavior Intervention and Support programs in Amarillo and Austin - that have improved the overall learning environment in schools. But she thinks the 157,000 students in Dallas are unnecessarily at risk because the district has chosen to ignore the problems associated with removing kids from classrooms.

"Punishments put kids on a path to where they're more likely to drop out, they're more likely to be held back a grade, and they're more likely to eventually end up in the juvenile justice system."

The new coalition will ask trustees to create a task force charged with developing district-wide policies that push fewer students - especially minorities - toward the legal system. Non-whites and students with educational disabilities are disproportionately more likely to be removed from classrooms at the discretion of teachers.

After an expulsion or suspension, the likelihood that a student will wind up in the juvenile justice system increases almost three-fold, according to a Council of State Governments study, available at

Details of the Dallas action are at

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX