It’s become common for school police officers in Texas to issue criminal tickets to students for minor misbehavior like being rowdy in class or using profanity.
But now new federal guidelines say school police officers shouldn’t be involved in any kind of discipline for minor behavior.
Deborah Fowler is the deputy director for the advocacy group Texas Appleseed.
“This is the first time that the Department of Justice and the Department of Education have actually indicated that they have clear authority to intervene where there are problems with discrimination associated with that type of school-based law enforcement.”
New national data shows more than half of the students who are arrested or referred to law enforcement at school are African American or Latino.
Fowler says those numbers match what Texas Appleseed has seen here in Texas.
She says the new guidelines go beyond just saying what not to do.
“They’re not just using this as sort of a gotcha moment to say, ‘If you do this, we’re going to sweep in and there will be consequences.’ They’re also saying, ‘Really we want to partner with schools and school districts to ensure that you have the tools you need keep schools safe and keep kids in school.’”
Fowler says the new guidelines are a positive sign for an ongoing federal investigation into allegedly discriminatory discipline at the Bryan Independent School District.