The Austin City Council approved a resolution Thursday to create a study committee on the school-to-prison pipeline.
That's a term used to describe practices in schools that expose students to the wrong side of the criminal justice system. One example is when schools turn to law enforcement to address student misbehavior, such as receiving a criminal citation for disorderly conduct.
The Texas Legislature has discussed the idea of raising the age of criminal responsibility during the two most recent sessions. It’s a topic that will be debated this weekend at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin. Several proposals would consider treating 17-year-olds as juveniles, rather than adults, for purposes of criminal prosecution and sentencing. That change would align Texas with the majority of the country. Many proponents of such a change cite new research regarding cognitive development and lowered recidivism rates for offenders in the juvenile justice system. And there may be another reason making such a change could benefit the state.
About 15 middle- and high-school students sit in a row of seats in a dark courtroom on a Monday night at Austin Municipal Court. A few of the students are talking quietly, but most of them are silent. No one looks like they want to be here. They were caught out of school by a police officer, and now they’re at the court's juvenile curfew class.