Dr. King’s dream was that little black boys and girls would be able to join hands with little white boys and girls as sisters and brothers. However, the black child in Texas is three times more likely to be sent to the juvenile justice system for the same crime as their white peers.
Our children of color are being pushed out of the classroom to the courtroom, from the principal to the judge — schools look more like prisons with police officers giving out tickets.
It is time to shine a spotlight on Texas’ zero tolerance policies in our schools.
In 2010, Texas school cops handed out 300,000 Class B misdemeanor tickets to children as young as 6. The majority of suspensions are for minor misbehavior such as “disruptive behavior,” “insubordination” or school fights.”
Nationally, African-Americans students and students with disabilities constitute 18 percent of students but they account for 46 percent of those suspended more than once.
Recently, in Clear Creek Independent School District, a 13-year-old African-American boy was charged with criminal theft for not turning in library books properly, though the books were returned undamaged by the parents. The child was originally given 10 days in-school suspension and then, in the midst of that tenure, the school tacked on the charge of criminal theft and he was forced to report to the Texas Juvenile Justice facility in Texas City.
It is time to investigate punishment within our schools and ask the question, “Is it fair and equitable?”
The NAACP Dickinson-Bay Area Branch challenges persons of all races to visit the school district’s communication office and request a public information form; ask to know the current numbers based on race, age, gender and economics for children who were given in-school suspension referrals, charged with criminal conduct, suspended, given tickets and sent to alternative schools within the last three years within their school.
Retired Supreme Court Judge Wallace Jefferson’s scathing report on the school to prison pipeline in Texas sends alarming chills, particularly to the African-American community.
This report stands as a war cry that our Texas communities need to wake up and study how we can solve this epidemic together. Every child should be given a fair and equitable punishment — our democracy demands it.
We must offer mentorships, interventions, a discipline matrix policy for our students instead of expulsions and arrest. We have a responsibility to all of our children from the suburbs of the Bay Area to the trailer parks of our precious county.
If Texas continues to cut off social programs, after-school funding and faith-based programming, we are doomed to create a generation without hope. Our branch plans to host quarterly think tanks to forge partnerships to help ease the burdens for school administrators and to challenge Texas’ zero tolerance policies in our schools.
It takes a village to raise a child, and it will take all of us to investigate this injustice of inequitable punishment occurring in our Galveston County schools and across the state of Texas.
Lois Jones is president of the NAACP’s Dickinson-Bay Area Branch.