Misbehaving pupils ending up in court

Hundreds of US schools have police patrolling the playgrounds and corridors to keep order. But some believe their presence means an increasing number of pupils are being criminalised for minor classroom offences.

Judge John Sholden sits, dressed in black robes, in between two American flags and calls out names. He is looking down on a courtroom full of teenagers and their parents who are facing “Class C” misdemeanour offences for skipping school. At the truancy courts of Dallas in Texas, absence from class or repeated late arrivals are punishable with fines of up to $500 (£316).

“A Class C misdemeanour is the lowest level of all the criminal offences, it would be the equivalent of a traffic ticket or not abiding by a stop sign on the street,” says Judge Sholden, who can also hand out sanctions like essays and book reports in his sentence.

In a study of 1m Texan students -

Nearly six in 10 were suspended or expelled at least once between ages 12 and 18
Only 3% of these were for conduct for which state law mandates suspensions/ expulsions, the rest were discretionary
About 10% of students suspended or expelled between 12 and 18 dropped out, compared with just 2% of students with no disciplinary action
About 59% of those students disciplined 11 times or more did not graduate from high school
More than one in seven Texas middle and high school students have been involved with the juvenile justice system.
83% of African-American male students ended up in trouble, 74% of Hispanic male students and 59% of white male students
Six out of 10 black male school dropouts will spend time in prison


That’s what happens after years of parents screaming “You can’t lay a hand on my child”.

Teachers literally can’t touch a child unless they are physically attacking them or another student (even then its limited). If you have a student trashing a classroom the teacher can only stand and watch (as was the case of the kindergartner earlier this week) but a police officer can physically restrain them.

Which is understandable, but what about the cases of pupils not wearing correct uniform? That seems a bit over the top, especially as it is not a criminal offence to wear the wrong uniform to school, but it is to trash someone else’s property.

The link doesn’t work.

Works for me. :confused:

All US states have education codes that criminalize student defiance of campus authority, fighting on school campuses, weapon/drug possession, failure to make adequate academic progress, and excessive unexcused absences (i.e., skipping school). They’re oftentimes not enforced adequately because of - shocker! - a lack of funding and manpower. For example, my county has a court supposedly dedicated to student attendance. The problem? There hasn’t been a judge appointed to that court for six years. Result? Few if any school skippers or their parents get into legal trouble.


I was going to say, truancy has always been a punishable offense, with criminal penalties attached. I bet the same is true in the UK, for parents who don’t send their kids to school. I know it is true in Germany and Scandinavian countries where homeschooling is all but outlawed. :shrug: Not sure how having a police officer on campus makes for more stringent enforcement of truancy.

It works for me (using Firefox 11.)

As for the article, I am glad at least one Texas state legislator is questioning the practice of sending children to court because they broke the school uniform code.

An astonishing statistic from the BBC article, based upon a survey of one million Texas students

Nearly six in 10 were suspended or expelled at least once between ages 12 and 18

60% of Texas students have been suspended or expelled? Something definitely seems wrong in the Lone Star State.

I agree with Dale, 60% of students seems ridiculous. Unless Texan students are particularly troublesome, that doesn’t sound right.

That doesn’t sound right to me either. Maybe it has to do with the terms. Suspensions are what used to be detentions (staying after school), so if it is that, then 60% may be a bit low.

The problem is that schools are not allowed to discipline students like they used to, so they are turning to law enforcement to do the job. It used to be that if a student violated a dress code, parents were called and they were sent home to change clothes. Now, many parents would get very upset if they had to pick up their child because of a dress code violation.

There was a story this week of a 6 year old girl who was arrested for throwing a tantrum. A 6 year old! What the story didn’t talk about was that the school couldn’t do anything to stop the tantrum, so they called the police. When school adminstrators are prevented from touching a child for basically any reason, you end up with situations like that.



More likely a case of playing with the math. They surveyed a million students, and they probably reported 600,000 suspensions. Most likely it was 200,000 students that had been suspended 3 times.

It’s like the 50% of all marriages end in divorce stat. While the overall number is correct the number of people that get divorced is nowhere near 50%. People that get divorced once are more likely to get divorced again. In my wife’s family there are 8 children, between them there a 4 divorces - but only one child has been divorced. Is their divorce rate 50% or is it 13%?

Does it matter? Still the amount of divorces that have happened. And still 50% of marriages by the children have ended up in divorce.

Yes, but it explains that the problem is not a Texas (or Sam’s family) problem in general, but a select group that skew the numbers. The focus should be on them, not the majority that do things properly, if you want to address the problem.

No, that isn’t how surveys work. The responses of each person who fills out the questionnaire are kept separate from one another. Each person is an independent record. So the survey tabulates how many individuals have answered a question in a specific way (e.g Yes, No, Not Applicable)

Finding fault with the marriage/divorce ratio may be accurate. But if so it would be due to taking statistics from two surveys unrelated to one another. A similar mistake would be saying that since 10% of Americans play football and 10% of Americans love to quilt, then 1% of Americans are football playing quilters.

My personal impression is that schools systems seem to have lost their way and it’s not all the parents’ fault either - the problem is larger than parents. Some of the disciplinary patterns I see at public schools just don’t seem to be based either on common sense or on honesty.

At the elementary school level, if anything I see too much effort to turn kids into little robots and not enough commonsense appreciation that after all, they’re only kids! For example, how on earth can a classroom sit still and compliant throughout an entire school day, with no recess and only PE (*structured * physical activity) to let their excess energy out? In my experience that leads to frustrated kids who learn how to game the system by appearing to comply with adults’ instructions while venting their frustrations on the weaker/less popular kids. That dark side, is what schools seem to go to great lengths to deny. Parents are definitely a factor, but they are as much a force for good as for bad, IMO.

As kids rise through the system, some get meaner, some more frustrated and some just tune out altogether. Thankfully, there are some good schools out there, but generally, I would give anything to NOT be a child again in the public school system. When it’s not incredibly frustrating, it seems just as incredibly, mind-numbingly boring…The only bright sparks are the great teachers who happen along, but they alone can’t save the system I’m afraid…

So what would be your suggestion? Count only the first marriage someone has? - that won’t work in Sam’s example, as if the one with 4 divorces married women who had never married before, they would still be counted.

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