In Texas, and some other states around the country, misbehaving in the classroom could get you much more than a lunchtime in detention. After Texas passed its zero tolerance policy for school disciplinary issues in 1995, many students began receiving criminal citations for missing class, fighting, and even throwing paper airplanes.
These charges can have lasting effects on the students who receive them. Colleges and employers typically require students to report any criminal citations, and students who are referred to court just once are more likely to drop out of high school. Education advocates such as Debra Fowler of Texas Appleseed also say that there is no evidence to suggest that such charges improve the behavior of students in school.
However, those in the criminal justice stand by the policy. They say that the number of citations given to students are down in recent years, and that the cases that do make it to court are typically of a more serious nature. At the same time, a high-profile incident where a hardworking honors student was thrown in jail for missing school has shone a national spotlight on the state's harsh punishment laws, and put pressure on state lawmakers to change them.
"Most of the disruption of class type offenses were written really to address student demonstrations. They're being used radically differently today." - Debra Fowler, deputy director, Texas Appleseed.
1. What is a citation?
2. What is the zero tolerance policy?
3. Why do you think Texas passed its zero tolerance policy?
1. Why would getting a criminal charge be problematic for students in the future?
2. Are criminal charges the best way to deal with truancy and other classroom incidents? What other ways can issues like truancy be handled at school?
3. How would you feel if you received a criminal charge for a classroom offense?
4. Would receiving a criminal charge affect your plans for the future?