The Austin Lawyers Guild wants Austin schools to end disciplinary policy of ticketing students for minor misbehaviors – a practice it says creates a “school-to-prison pipeline” for troubled students.
They want the school district to changes its policies for the upcoming school year. Last year, Texas schools issued over 300,000 non-traffic tickets to students with the most common offenses being truancy, disorderly conduct and simple assault.
“When I was a student, it would have meant a trip to the principal’s office,” says local attorney Brian McGiverin. “The fact that schools have the option to write tickets in no way requires them to do it.”
Once a student is ticketed, the offense is lodged in their criminal history. The guild says acting up in class as a middle schooler could hinder their prospects of finding jobs, higher education and housing as an adult facing a background check.
“Through no fault of their own, [students] are being saddled with a scarlet letter for the rest of their lives,” McGiverin says. “That’s what contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline.”
Antonio Lujan, AISD Media Relations Coordinator, said district police officers usually refrain from ticketing students except in extreme circumstances.
"We have an extra set of eyes watching over the kids at our campuses," Lujan said. "The officers are out there to provide advice and gear students toward the right path in life which helps reduce crime."
Lujan said excessive ticketing is not as much of an issue for AISD as it may be for other districts in the state. Current numbers are not readily available, but in the 2006-2007 school year, AISD issued over 2,600 tickets. That’s according to a 2010 report on student ticketing in Texas.
McGiverin says he thinks the practice of ticketing continues because it is easier than addressing children’s complex needs. Ticketing disproportionately impacts minorities and special-education students, according to the Austin Lawyers Guild.
“Lesser penalties make a lot more sense when you’re talking about disruption of class or just talking back in a hallway,” McGiverin says. The Austin Lawyers Guild is working to raise community support to petition the AISD school board to change its ticketing policies.