Rep. Johnson Continues Effort to Break School-to-Prison Pipeline

Matt Briscoe

There is no doubt that Texas truly loves to put people in prison. In fact, many of those who are targeted by the Texas justice system are those who come from dysfunctional backgrounds, poverty and underperforming school districts. All too often, demographics are not reported about youth who might be showing signs of trouble. But on Monday, State Representative Eric Johnson of Dallas presented a bill before the education committee that could possibly change how that reporting is conducted.

Johnson’s bill would in essence force school districts to report the race, sex and dates of birth of suspended students, as well as information on why the students were suspended and the length of the suspensions. The bill would also require districts to report the number of suspensions that were inconsistent with student code of conduct guidelines in the Education Code, which might in turn actually help at identity youth who are at risk of ending up in the prison system.

Districts would add the information to a report they already submit to the Texas Education Agency regarding expulsions and alternative school. The legislation is an effort to give researchers and the public greater information about the frequency and underlying causes of school suspensions.

My bill would require the same information already reported on expulsions and alternative school placements to be reported on out-of-school suspensions,” Rep. Johnson said. “This data will allow us to craft better policies related to school discipline, and that’s going to help us address the underlying causes of suspensions.”

Johnson’s bill does seem to have some support from the lobby. Representatives of Texans Care for Children, Easterseals, Texas Appleseed and Pastors for Texas Children testified in support of House Bill 65 at Tuesday’s hearing.

The committee did not vote on Johnson’s bill on Monday, but observers are optimistic that the bill could reach the floor in form of a package deal.

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