AUSTIN, Texas — A University of Houston report shows that students of color in Texas are more likely to be cited for disciplinary violations, more likely to be punished by exclusion, and more likely to be punished than their white peers in general.
These issues were discussed in a virtual conference held by the child welfare group, Children at Risk. The chief equity officer with Children at Risk, Sharon Jones, pointed to some state policies that criminalize children.
“Texas children age 10 and up can be handcuffed in schools and adjudicated and confined in a secure juvenile correctional facility,” she said.
The issue presents itself locally as well. Austin ISD recently reported that in the last school year, 17.5% of the African American population in schools received disciplinary actions, when they made up only 6.5% of the population. That is only 0.2% less than the previous year, despite the district creating a plan to address this issue.
In their report, they state they have several methods of addressing this, including intervention plans for students.
Advocacy organizations like the Austin Justice Coalition are trying to combat the disproportionality in student discipline, first by collecting data.
“AJC is working on gathering from students and parents what does safety look like in schools to them,” said Austin Justice Coalition Education Policy Director Amber Watts.
They’re also pushing for systemic changes.
Other solutions were discussed at the conference and Education Justice Project Senior Staff Attorney Vicky Sullivan talked about going to the root cause.
“You have to involve mental health professionals, counselors, social workers and support services to address not just the violence itself, but the root causes as well,” said Sullivan.
We reached out to a number of Central Texas districts, including AISD, to find out how they’re addressing this statewide issue. We did not hear back.
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