• by Morgan Craven, J.D. • IDRA Newsletter • June-July 2019 •
To ensure all students succeed, schools must end policies and practices that create harmful school climates and push students into the school-to-prison pipeline through exclusionary discipline and criminalization. During the recent Texas legislative session, many policymakers focused on “school safety” in response to school shootings.
While some proposals focused on building positive school climates, others prioritized approaches that would make schools less safe for students, including making extreme changes to “harden” facilities, expanding harmful and punitive school discipline, and increasing the number of weapons on campuses.
The major school safety bill Senate Bill 11 requires school districts to create behavior threat assessment teams and sets additional standards for emergency response plans. It also creates a Child Mental Health Care Consortium.
Importantly, the measure requires that police officers in every school district receive youth-focused training. It expands current law, which only requires training for officers in large districts. While it is critical that police officers receive this training, it is also important to limit police interactions with students (Craven, March 2019). Schools should not involve police in routine discipline or classroom management, a protection afforded this session by SB 1707.
SB 11 also includes a “school safety allotment,” providing per-student funding that districts can use for important safety measures. Such measures include mental health personnel and supports; behavioral health services related to prevention and management of emergencies and threats; and suicide prevention, intervention and postvention services.
Unfortunately, school districts also may use the allotment funds to buy school-hardening equipment and employ school-based police officers, despite research showing better methods of creating safe campuses (Warnick & Kapa, 2019). The legislature appropriated $100 million for the school safety allotment for the next biennium and $100 million solely for school hardening equipment (such as locks, barriers and cameras) for the remainder of the current biennium.
Testimony: Use Effective Discipline, Not Zero Tolerance – IDRA Testimony Against SB2432, April 30, 2019
Testimony: Clearly Define the Role of Law Enforcement in Schools – Officers Should Not Be Called on to Handle School Disciplinary Matters, IDRA Testimony on SB1 707, March 26, 2019
SB 2432 requires school districts to place students in disciplinary alternative schools for harassment of a teacher. While it is important to protect every member of a school community from harassment, the bill is deeply concerning because it takes a zero-tolerance approach to “harassment,” which can include behaviors as vague and subjective as making an annoying comment.
The law currently requires school districts to consider mitigating factors before they punish students, but many ignore that provision and instead punish students automatically. SB 2432 threatens to expand that practice, which impacts students of color, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ students disproportionately (Craven, April 2019).
IDRA will continue to support policies consistent with research and best practices on how to create safe and excellent schools for all students. For more information about research-based ways to create positive, safe schools for all students, see resources and tools available through the IDRA EAC-South (www.idra.org/eac-south).
Cortez, A. (2009). Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs in Texas – A 2009 Update. San Antonio: IDRA.
Craven, M. (March 26, 2019). Clearly Define the Role of Law Enforcement in Schools IDRA Testimony on SB170 – Officers Should Not Be Called on to Handle School Disciplinary Matters. Testimony of IDRA presented for the Senate Education Committee. San Antonio: IDRA.
Craven, M. (April 30, 2019). Use Effective Discipline, Not Zero Tolerance – IDRA Testimony Against SB 2432. Testimony of IDRA presented for the House Education. San Antonio: IDRA.
Warnick, B.R. and Kapa, R. (2019). Protecting Students from Gun Violence: Does “Target Hardening” Do More Harm than Good? Education Next.
Morgan Craven, J.D., is the IDRA National Director of Policy. Comments and questions may be directed to her via email at email@example.com.