The sort of offenses that might land a student in the principal's office in other states often send kids in Texas to court with misdemeanor charges. Some schools have started rethinking the way they punish students for bad behavior after watching many of them drop out or land in prison because of tough disciplinary policies. ...Wonder what sort of offenses these kids committed? It was not just chewing gum in class:
Hudson says, "When you look at the numbers of times students are disciplined in school, suspended, separated from school, placed in disciplinary alternative education placement, the unintended consequence is that their education suffers to the point where it puts them farther and farther away from graduating."
Hudson thinks these unintended consequences prove that the schools' disciplinary policies are not working. This seems to be the growing consensus in Texas, but it's going to take a lot of work to undo the damage the harsh disciplinary policies have caused.
Thomesha Turner, 18, is a senior in the Waco independent school district. She was a good student and had never been in trouble before a verbal altercation with a teacher.She is an 18-year-old girl who is pregnant with her third child, and she is lecturing us on NPR about what is bad for kids?!
She says the teacher pointed a finger in her face and called her a little girl.
"I told her to get out of my face 'cause I wasn't a little girl, and I cussed [her] out. I said, Miss, 'You get out of my face or I'll beat your bitch ass up.' There's a different way I could've handled it," Turner says, "but I didn't handle it in a more mature way." ...
Turner has similar concerns. "When they see alternative on your background, they look at you different because they're like, alternative? That's for bad kids."
Already a mother of two with another child on the way, Turner is determined to graduate next spring.
The boys also have big problems and big excuses:
Neglect, abuse and family problems are issues that students like Saul Cornejo, 16, bring to school every day.The NPR reporter has a Mexican accent. He does not say, but it is reasonable to assume that these kids are on welfare, illegal aliens, or both.
"Teachers at school, they don't understand it," he says. "They just dismiss you, put you off instead of like, really trying to get to the real problem which, most of the time originates at home and stuff."
Cornejo has been suspended several times for fighting. He lives with his older brother but is pretty much on his own. His principal says he's really bright, but Cornejo is facing felony charges for burglary and won't be allowed to return to his home school.
Schools give up on kids like Cornejo all too often, says John Hudson, the director of attendance, truancy and dropout recovery in the Waco alternative school.
NPR complains that these kids are suffering the unintended consequences of unusually strict zero-tolerance policies, and that the schools do not have social programs to solve the problems of their broken families.
The problem is not zero tolerance. It is that we have too much tolerance if a Texas high school girl can have three babies, threaten to beat up her teacher, and collect welfare to continue her bad behavior and create another generation of troublemakers. In a couple of more years, her kids will be disrupting a Texas kindergarten class.