AUSTIN – The Texas House has passed SB 393 by Senator Royce West and Representative Tryon Lewis. This legislation will help keep schools safe, save taxpayers money and could even lead to higher graduation rates. The Foundation testified in support of this legislation in response to the growing trend to criminalize minor misbehavior, which in years past merely resulted in a trip to the principal’s office.
Currently, tens of thousands of students in Texas are sent to court for minor misbehavior. The result is usually a $500 fine, plus court costs. This practice does little to teach students about their behavior and increases costs on both schools and courts.
Instead of over relying on courts for all school discipline issues, SB 393 would draw the line between cases of minor misbehavior and true public safety issues. For the latter, SB 393 would implement the tiered model in Texas schools. This approach has proven successful in other jurisdictions, both in reducing disciplinary issues and in increasing graduation rates.
The tiered model calls for in-school discipline interventions for minor misbehavior before a student is sent to municipal or justice courts. Options for schools include warning letters, community service, or counseling for youths who commit fine-only misdemeanors in school. If the in-school methods do not work, schools still have the option of filing a Class C misdemeanor complaint against the student.
Marc Levin, the Foundation’s Director of the Center for Effective Justice said, “We need to have a smarter system of dealing with routine misbehavior by students at school that does not threaten public safety. The current system of ticketing is costly, leads to higher dropout rates and doesn’t improve school safety. SB 393 would be a great improvement upon our system of dealing with these young offenders.”
SB 393 now goes back to the Senate for their consideration of the House language.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit, free-market research institute based in Austin.