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Report: Texas School Discipline Policies Waste Precious Money

March 27, 2012

DALLAS - Some Texas school districts could save considerable money simply by improving discipline strategies, according to a study being released today. The report by Texas Appleseed focuses on the Dallas Independent School District as a case study in "poor outcomes and high costs" associated with routinely removing children from classrooms.

It concludes that Dallas spent more than $11 million last year on unfruitful discipline approaches while, at the same time, slashing overall spending to make up for state cuts to education aid.

Durrel Douglas, a spokesman for the Texas Organizing Project, says those approaches are bad for everybody.

"So it's counter-productive, not only for the child, but it's also wasting a lot of money when they're closing schools and firing teachers."

Douglas's group has been pressuring Dallas and other school boards to experiment with alternative discipline policies, such as "Positive Behavior Intervention and Support" programs that experts say not only serve individual students better, but also improve the overall learning environment.

Like most other Texas districts, Dallas has had to lay off staff and cut programs this year, and more cuts are expected next year. The city is in the process of closing 11 campuses, some of which are already over capacity.

Douglas says that's unacceptable, especially as the district continues to spend big bucks on discipline.

"The money's right under their noses. It costs over $57,000 per student per desk at DISD's elementary alternative school. That's more than five times the amount that it costs at a regular school."

Today's report reinforces previous research from the Council of State Governments that found suspended or expelled children were almost three times as likely to wind up in the juvenile justice system.

Douglas says that when students are removed from classrooms and home schools for minor dust-ups and rule infractions, they get labeled as "problem" kids, and then they tend to live up to that expectation.

"Our parents don't want their children to be branded as bad kids. What message are we sending to our children when we treat them like criminals, and they end up pushed out of the schools and into the criminal justice system?"

The Texas Organizing Project will be hosting a town hall and parent resource fair Saturday in Oak Cliff to help guide Dallas families through the disruptions associated with school budget cuts.

See information on the report (embargoed) and Saturday town hall at See last year's study at

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX