Criminal Citations for Students Who Chew Gum?

Since 1995, Texas has been issuing criminal citations to students who misbehave at school and more than 275,000 such citations are now issued. While some are certainly appropriate, we have also seen Class C misdemeanors to ten-year-olds for chewing gum, sleeping in class, or cursing.

Texas Senate Bill 1116 by Representative Jerry Madden and Senator John Whitmire, which is on the House Calendar today, would address this absurdity by eliminating the practice of schools issuing Class C misdemeanors to students below the age of 12 for minor misbehavior that traditionally would have been dealt with in the school system. Evidence shows that there are more effective disciplinary practices than sending these kids to a municipal court, which can only fine their parents. Students this young are not appropriately held responsible for signing a citation saying that they will appear in court. Under this bill, officers could still arrest such youngsters for any offense for which any person can be arrested, ensuring that school safety will not be compromised.

Finally the proposed bill carries no fiscal note.  This is a problem that is solved with a little common sense, not tax dollars.  Texas should enhance discipline in schools instead of passing the paddle to municipal courts and putting 4th, 5th, and 6th graders on a path to the juvenile justice system for routine school misbehavior.

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