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