Improve School Safety by Returning Some Authority to Police and Actually Enforcing the Laws That Exist

In the State of Texas, schools are becoming increasingly more unruly. This is a direct result of two pieces of legislation.

  • 1. Senate Bill 393, passed in 2013. Authored by Royce West.
  • 2. PBMAS (Performance Based Monitoring Analysis System) began producing state wide reports in 2006, regional reports in 2007, and followed by local reports.

Senate Bill 393  allows a student to complete alternative sanctions (e.g., complete community service or receive tutoring) rather than pay court-related costs. These graduated sanctions are required to be placed on the child before a complaint may be filed.

Steps

  1. a warning letter issued to the child and the child’s guardians,
  2. a behavior contract specifying the behavior that is required or prohibited from the child,
  3. the completion of school-based community services by the child, and
  4. the referral to counseling, community-based services, or other in-school or out-of-school services that may address the child’s behavior.
  5. If the child fails to adhere to the graduated sanctions, the school may file a complaint with a criminal court.

This process creates more work for school personnel than they have available. Just another unfunded mandate that the State of Texas is infamous for implementing.

This process sounded good in theory but has proved to have the opposite effect. In most large schools with their own police force, the police spend much of their day not doing anything. They are no longer allowed to write citation for offenses that disrupt the instructional process. It didn’t take long for the students to figure out that they were not going to be held accountable for their behavior, they would get a warning and sent on their way. They same child that started a fight in the cafeteria will start another fight.

The unintended end result of SB 393 is that many School Resource Officers and School District Police Officers spend much of their days sitting in an office and not doing anything. If something does happen, then their response is limited by SB393. To add to the problem, if an incident occurs at another building, the officers are are pulled from their assigned buildings.

PBMAS began collecting data from the annual PEIMS reports in 2004-2018. In 2019, the system was changed to Results Driven Data (RDA). By 2006, districts were required to begin submitting “corrective action plans” to improve in the areas that were determined to be above the allowed thresholds established standards. There are 4 broad categories.

  1. Bilingual Education/English as a Second Language – BE/ESL (9 Indicators)
  2. Career and Technology – CTE (8 Indicators)
  3. Every Student Success Act – ESSA (8 Indicators)
  4. Special Education – SPED (16 Indicators)
    1. Indicator 16: SPED Total Disciplinary Removals Rate
      1. This indicator is the causing most of the disciplinary problems. Schools don’t want to have a disproportionate number of SPED Disciplinary Removals in comparison to Non-SPED students, therefore they create ridiculous disciplinary management plans. These plans require the classroom teacher to complete 8-10-12 steps before they are allowed to even consider writing a disciplinary referral to the principal’s office. When that referral arrives in the office, then it is usually taken lightly, don’t do that again. Even if it was that child’s 50th offense.

Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code provides all the rules and laws regarding student discipline in Texas Public Schools. You will find 2 words throughout Chapter 37; May and Shall. “May” statement provide some latitude in what actions may be taken regarding those offenses. “Shall” does not allow for any latitude, an administrator must follow the law set-forth by Chapter 37.

Subsection 37.006 -REMOVAL FOR CERTAIN CONDUCT. This dictates when students “shall” be removed from their regular class and placed in a Disciplinary Alternative Education Placement (DAEP). Strangely in many large districts this subsection is ignored.

In the district I retired from last summer, it was district policy that central office had to approve all DAEP placements. It was common for central office deny DAEP placements for marijuana and other drug offenses. They would send them back to the campus instead of following the law in the TEC.

In my wife’s MS building, she has to walk into the girls bathroom daily and try to avoid getting high from the amount of marijuana being smoked and vaped. The administration knows it is going but does not want to do anything because central office does not have the resources (available DAEP seats) to handle the actual number of students that should be placed in a DAEP.

If there is going to be improvement in student discipline, then there must be changes at all levels of the system. Teachers must do their job. Building administration must do their job. School Police must be allowed to do their job. The school district can not obstruct the campus administration’s handling of discipline. They can’t threaten the campus administration with their job if there is the perception of large numbers of disciplinary removals. The Texas legislature must give campus administrators the authority to improve their campus without interference from central off.

David R. Taylor, Retired Educator

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