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Changing nature of school discipline and juvenile charges

Jan 25, 2018 | Juvenile Crimes

The discipline policies in schools across Texas today look a lot different than they did 20 or 30 years ago when you were in school. In the past, we feared a trip to the principal’s office. Today, schools have assigned law enforcement officers that often are called on to deal with misbehavior.

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Frequently, school discipline becomes a court matter. When the Texas criminal justice system is involved the results of black and white application of rules can have harsh results.

For example, the Texas Public Policy Foundation details how one young girl spent 30 days in a Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DEAP) after sharing her inhaler with a friend who was having an asthma attack. Saving her friend’s life by sharing a “prohibited substance” will remain on her record as a disciplinary action.

From zero-tolerance to accounting for intent

The past practice of labeling certain behavior “zero tolerance” offenses (where schools had no discretion in enforcement decisions) has been eased somewhat. School districts now have more latitude to find out whether behavior was related to a disability or perceived as self defense before meting out punishment.

Removal of a student from a classroom through a suspension or expulsion often fails to address the underlying issues that trigger the misbehavior. 

Long-term consequences

One recent study finds that Texas teenagers with school disciplinary records are more likely to repeat a grade or drop out of school. These students also had greater chances of being entangled in the criminal justice system later in life.

Depending on the alleged conduct, the school board might recommend referring the matter to juvenile court. For this reason, it is crucial to speak with a juvenile court defense attorney at the first notice of disciplinary action from the school. School or court records related to a prank, experimenting with marijuana or underage drinking could follow your student and limit educational or employment opportunities.

At Mingledorff law, our attorneys will work to avoid a referral to the criminal justice system. If there is no way to avoid juvenile court, we will fight to minimize the penalty. Then we work with you to seal records to protect your child’s future.