Under a comprehensive plan being discussed Wednesday, teachers and school administrators in Texas would have more latitude to dismiss disruptive pupils from class.
A Lubbock Republican gained notoriety in the weeks following the Uvalde tragedy when he informed his fellow lawmakers that “Not all kids belong in the classroom anymore.” Sen. Charles Perry promised to address disciplinary issues in schools this session.
The Senate Education Committee
In a hearing before the Senate education committee on Wednesday, he repeated that theme. Perry’s legislation would enable a teacher to dismiss a pupil for disruptive or belligerent behavior after just one instance. It would give schools the authority to expel pupils from regular public schools for a wider range of offenses, such as harassing a staff member, and suspend them for longer periods of time.
Perry’s initiative is a response to instructors’ worries about school violence and the prevalence of disruptive students. “Kids are just angrier these days,” Perry observed, adding that Texas has a “whole different demographic” in its schools. We simply have a different child than we had in the past.
His bill, according to civil rights activists, signals a return to the zero-tolerance punishment that disproportionately affects children of color. They are concerned that the bill’s criterion for dismissing a student from class is too lax and would be predicated on arbitrary factors. Education advocacy organizations wrote to committee members stating that the futures of students cannot be sacrificed in order to achieve the vital goal of relieving overworked teachers.
Members of Texas Appleseed, the Intercultural Development Research Association, and Texas Center for Justice and Equity wrote, “We fear that this will lead to mass removals of students, and potential chaos for an already subpar [Disciplinary Alternative Education Program] system that is not equipped to meet students’ educational, mental, and behavioral health needs.”
According to state data, over half of teachers list safety or discipline as their top concerns. According to a poll conducted by the Texas Teacher Vacancy Task Force, stress at work is a result of both student behavior and insufficient administrative assistance for discipline.
“I don’t blame teachers for quitting; they’re done. They ought to feel secure. They ought to feel valued, said Perry. The state has spent years moving away from the kinds of rigorous disciplinary methods that have been demonstrated to expel Black and Hispanic children from school at higher rates as well as those with impairments.
Black children made up 13% of those enrolled in Texas public schools in 2018–19, according to an IDRA report, but 26% of those who were suspended from school. However, the constant stream of school shootings, such as the one at Robb Elementary, can spur a renewed emphasis on enforcing discipline.
For instance, following the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, then-President Donald Trump criticized Obama-era regulations that aimed to reduce the disproportionate suspensions and expulsions that students of color experience. Shortly after, the Trump administration changed its mind. In the meantime, a federal assessment from June 2020 discovered no empirical studies in the previous ten years that specifically looked at the connection between school punishment and school shootings.
Anita Hebert, the superintendent of Shallowater ISD, claimed that teachers’ requests for more behavioral management strategies are what she hears from them the most. Since COVID, “we’ve been living in uncertain times,” she remarked. We must ensure that our classrooms come out of the pandemic as secure and organized spaces for learning.
She explained to the lawmakers how her district found it challenging to establish suitable disciplinary measures for a possibly hazardous student. The student, according to her, displayed disruptive conduct and switched between campuses. Hebert claims that the kid made explicit threats of violence to other students and had access to a weapon. We once again found that there weren’t many disciplinary choices when we looked at them, she said. “We must broaden our options.”
Before the Senate education committee, Perry outlined the potential implementation of his bill.
He remarked, “We’re removing those problematic kids who, while they may not yet be violent, are so disrespectful and disruptive that they undermine the entire educational process. “Those are going to [Disciplinary Alternative Education Program],” was said.
His proposed legislation would require the educator to be consulted once a teacher believes that a pupil needs to be expelled before allowing the child to return. There would need to be a “return to class” strategy devised. A pupil could contest their expulsion. You can also check this news about Protesters Want Texas Authorities To Return Black Couple Home Born Baby.
According to civil rights groups, exclusionary disciplinary methods lead to lost learning opportunities, poorer graduation rates, and negative student attitudes toward school. Additionally, they claim that this approach can avoid addressing the fundamental reasons why a student may behave out.
The bill would also prevent the Texas Education Agency from penalizing districts or withholding funds depending on how many kids they suspend, expel, or transfer to alternative discipline schools. States need to keep an eye on how special education students are treated and whether certain student groups seem to be subjected to harsher punishment than others. If that’s the situation, a school district might be forced to use its federal funding to solve the issue.
According to Jake Kobersky, spokesman for the Texas Education Agency, “Funds aren’t withheld, but a portion are directed at addressing the issue of disproportionality.”
This year, Texas lawmakers seem to be rolling back some of the improvements put forth by their forerunners. In recent years, the state has moved away from some strict punishment practices, including as ticketing kids for minor infractions and decriminalizing truancy.
Concerns that Texas was pushing vulnerable pupils down the school-to-pipeline—often referred to as how the educational system can force kids into the criminal justice system rather than offer them constructive support—led to these moves.
Clay Lewis Jenkins tweeted that Texas lawmakers are debating making it easier to kick students out of class. You can see below:
Civil rights advocates argue that this bill represents return to the kind of zero-tolerance discipline that disproportionately impacts children of color as Texas lawmakers debate making it easier to kick students out of class. https://t.co/apV7iuG04W pic.twitter.com/kJSgzYuVMg
— Clay Lewis Jenkins (@JudgeClayJ) April 13, 2023
This week, lawmakers also discussed whether to reinstate tougher sanctions for households with too frequent absences from school. These ideas include raising the fine for each instance of truancy, making it easier for schools to re-engage pupils without resorting to punishment, and redesignating a parent found in contempt of court as a Class C misdemeanor.
Additionally, Perry’s measure would make it a priority for Texas schools to submit data to a national anonymous threat reporting system.
According to the law, a campus behavior coordinator is required to report to iWatchTexas “any concerning student behaviors or behavioral trends that may pose a serious risk of violence to the student or others.”
Last year, The Dallas Morning News revealed that the state had invested $2.2 million on iWatchTexas, a largely experimental safety program. Some research-based procedures that other programs adopt, like student-focused training, are not followed by the system. Compared to other comparable anonymous reporting mechanisms utilized by individual districts, it has yielded extremely few tips.
At the time, the office of Governor Greg Abbott stated that iWatchTexas guarantees that all tips received from various areas are “integrated and gives law enforcement the ability to respond to threats as quickly as possible and save lives.”