Texas is one of two states where students who miss or skip a lot of school can end up in criminal court, where they can face high fines and maybe even jail time for not being in class.
But that approach to truancy could drastically change under a new bill that’s headed to Gov. Greg Abbott for his signature.
News 88.7 Education Reporter Laura Isensee recently sat down with Deborah Fowler, executive director of Texas Appleseed. The public interest law center focuses on school discipline and juvenile justice issues.
They talk about how truancy laws will change if the bill becomes law.
Listen to their conversation below:
Here are some highlights from their conversation:
On the reform bill:
“The Legislature just passed a very comprehensive reform bill that will require better intervention and prevention on the school side. One of the things we’ve seen in Texas in addition to this very punitive system in the courts is an overwhelming number of cases, over 100,000 cases a year. So, one of the things that the Legislature felt needed to be done was just cut down on the number of kids who have court contact to begin with. So, the bill requires the school to engage in more prevention and intervention, but once the kids get to court, the bill makes that process a civil process rather than a criminal process.”
How significant is that change for students:
“It’s going to mean a complete shift in the way this process is handled for kids. Kids will no longer be saddled with a criminal record. Families that can ill-afford a fine will no longer be fined when kids miss school. And schools are really going to be required to work a lot more with the families to make sure that whatever the underlying problem that’s posing a barrier to school attendance is addressed, which is ultimately what you want to do with truant students.”
How far is Texas moving away from the “school-to-prison pipeline:”
“I think on truancy specifically, what’s amazing about this is that Texas will go from having been perhaps the most punitive, one of the worst in the nation, to perhaps being one of the best, depending on how well the bill is implemented.”