Texas teachers and school administrators could more easily expel misbehaving students from the classroom under a wide-ranging bill up for debate Wednesday.
In the weeks after the Uvalde massacre, a Republican from Lubbock drew attention when he told fellow lawmakers, “Not all kids belong in the classroom anymore.” Senator Charles Perry pledged to tackle school discipline in this session.
That refrain was echoed Wednesday at a Senate Education Committee hearing.
Perry’s legislation would allow a teacher to remove a student based on a single incident of unruly or disruptive behavior. It would enable schools to suspend students for longer periods of time and expel them from traditional public school for a wide range of reasons, including school employee harassment.
Berry said his bill is in response to teachers’ concerns about violence in schools and the number of students behaving inappropriately in class.
“Kids are angrier these days,” Perry said. “We have a different baby today than we had in the past.”
Civil rights advocates argue that his bill marks a return to the kind of intolerant discipline that disproportionately affects children of color. They are concerned that the standard for removing a student from class under the bill is too low and will be based on subjective reasons.
In a letter to committee members, education advocacy groups wrote that the necessary goal of providing relief to overburdened teachers could not be at the expense of students’ futures.
“We fear this could lead to mass dismissals of students, and the potential for chaos for those who are already below standard [Disciplinary Alternative Education Program] “The system is ill-equipped to meet the educational, mental, and behavioral needs of students,” wrote members of Texas Appleseed, the Intercultural Development Research Association and the Texas Center for Justice and Equity.
Almost half of teachers cite discipline or a safe work environment as a major concern, According to state data. The Texas Teacher Vacancy Task Force surveyed teachers who said student behavior and ineffective discipline support from administrators contributed to workplace stress.
The teachers are over, and I don’t blame them. They must feel safe. “They should feel respected,” Perry said.
Last school year, nearly 2,400 employee assaults occurred in the district, According to the state education agency’s discipline data. About 60 grave attacks occurred during the same time period.
Texas enrolls more than 5 million students and has more than 765,000 school employees.
The state has spent years moving away from the kinds of strict disciplinary practices that are shown to be expelling Black and Latino children, as well as those with disabilities, from school at higher rates.
that The IDRA report found that, In 2018-2019, black students accounted for 13% of Texas public school enrollment in Texas, but 26% of those suspended in school.
But the drumbeat of school shootings — like the one at Rupp Elementary — can lead to a renewed focus on suppressing discipline.
After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting in 2018, for example, then-US President Donald Trump criticized Obama-era directives that sought to reduce the disproportionate suspensions and expulsions faced by students of color. Trump administration Rescind that policy soon after.
Meanwhile, a federal report released in June 2020 No empirical search found in the past decade that has directly examined the link between school discipline and school shootings.
Anita Hebert, ISD Supervisor at Chalwater, said the most common thing she hears from teachers is that they want additional solutions to behavior challenges.
“We’ve been living in turbulent times since COVID,” she said. “We must make sure that our classrooms come back out of the pandemic as safe and orderly places to learn.”
She described to lawmakers how her district struggled to find appropriate disciplinary options for a potentially dangerous student. She said the student displayed disruptive behavior and bounced around campus. According to Hebert, he described violent threats to other students and had access to a weapon.
“Looking at our disciplinary options, we again discovered they were limited,” she said. “Our options must be expanded.”
Perry laid out how the bill might work before the Senate Education Committee.
“We’re taking in these rowdy kids who are probably not violent at the moment, but are so annoying and disrespectful that they detract from the whole learning experience,” he said. “We’re taking those to [Disciplinary Alternative Education Program]. “
Under its legislation, after a teacher decides that a student must be expelled, the educator must be consulted before the child can return. A “back to class” plan should be developed.
The student can appeal the removal.
Civil rights advocates often warn that exclusionary disciplinary practices lead to lost learning time, lower graduation rates and feelings of distrust and disengagement from school. In addition, they say, this strategy can avoid dealing with the underlying issues of why the student is behaving.
The bill would also prevent the Texas Education Agency from withholding funds or imposing a penalty on districts based on the number of students they suspend, expel or transfer to an alternative discipline school.
States should monitor how students who receive special education services are disciplined and whether any group of students appears to be more disciplined than others. If this is the case, the school system may be required to use its federal funding to address the problem.
“The money is not withheld — but a portion of it is directed at addressing the disproportionate issue,” Texas Education Agency spokesperson Jake Kupersky wrote in an email.
Texas lawmakers appear to be taking some steps this session that undermined their predecessors’ reforms.
The state has moved away from some of its tough disciplinary policies — such as ticketing students for low-level misdemeanors and decriminalizing truancy — in recent years.
These actions were in response to concerns that Texas was sending vulnerable students along the school line, which is often described as how the education system can push children into the criminal justice system instead of providing them meaningful support.
Lawmakers also debated this week whether to reinstate tougher penalties for families whose children are frequently absent from school.
Among those proposals: increasing the monetary penalty for each truancy offense, reducing the burden on districts to bring students back non-punitively, and reclassifying a parent found responsible for a child’s failure to attend school as a Class III misdemeanor.
Perry’s legislation would also require Texas schools to prioritize submitting information to the statewide anonymous threat reporting system.
It calls for the Campus Behavior Coordinator to report to iWatchTexas “any behaviors or behavioral trends involving the student that may pose a serious risk to the student or others.”
Dallas Morning News Last year I reported that the state spent $2.2 million on the iWatchTexas, a largely unused and unproven security tool. The system does not adhere to some of the research-based practices that other programs follow, such as student-centered training.
It got very few tips when compared to other similar anonymous reporting tools used by individual counties.
Greg Abbott’s office said at the time that iWatchTexas ensures that all tips reported from a variety of communities are “integrated and give law enforcement the ability to respond to threats as quickly as possible and save lives.”
The DMN Education Lab deepens coverage and conversation about pressing education issues critical to the future of North Texas.
The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative, supported by Bobby and Lottie Lyle, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, the Dallas Regional Chamber, Didi Rose, Jarrett, and Cecilia Boone, The Meadows Foundation, The Muriel Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network, Southern Methodist University, and Sidney Smith Hicks and the University of Texas at Dallas. The Dallas Morning News maintains full editorial control of Education Lab’s press.