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March 7, 2013
Common Sense School Discipline Takes Center Stage in Texas
What would be the appropriate punishment for a 7th grader talking unreasonably loudly in the middle of class?
Perhaps it would be writing an essay on classroom manners, going to the principal's office, or a call to his or her parents.
Would a $500 Class C misdemeanor ticket and a trip to municipal court for the 7th grader and his or her parents seem appropriate?
Believe it or not, Texas schools hand out tens of thousands of Class C misdemeanor tickets to students for misbehavior each every year.
That is expensive and ineffective in curbing misbehavior or discipline issues. It grows government unnecessarily.
And it is completely devoid of common sense.
This week, the Texas Legislature turned its focus toward restraining this governmental overreach in a Senate Jurisprudence committee hearing.
In August of last year, the Texas Public Policy Foundation released research dealing iwth just how ineffective these types of policies, which all feature overreliance on the justice system to handle minor misbehavior, are at handling school discipline issues. The Foundation identified an alternative -- the tiered discipline model -- which can provide better discipline and safer schools all at a lower cost.
Here is the icing on the cake: the county system in Georgia that has implemented this alternative has also realized a 20 percent hike in graduation rates.
That is just plain common sense. That is the conservative approach to school discipline.
Courts should be focused on public safety issues. Schools can handle the misbehavior.
The Foundation commends the Texas Legislature and the Chief Justice for their focus on this important issue. It's time Texas, and every other state, injected a little more common sense into our schools.
Jeanette Moll is Juvenile Justice Policy Analyst for the Texas Public Policy Foundation
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