Police in Texas’ public school system issued 71 percent fewer tickets for bad behavior this past school year. It’s partly because of a state law that took effect last September that attempts decriminalizes on-campus infractions.
Infractions like trespassing, classroom disruption, and possession of drugs or alcohol on school grounds used to be able to get you a class C misdemeanor. But a two state laws that went into effect last September, keep school police from issuing Class C Misdemeanors.
"School-based police officers ought to have their focus on other matters that are not general classroom misconduct," said Joy Baskin, director of legal services for the Texas Association of School Boards.
From September 1st through December 31st of 2012 there were 1,805 Class C misdemeanor tickets issued for education code violations. That’s according to the Texas Office of Court Administration. In 2013 there 515. Those violations include disruption of class, disruption of transportation and violations of the student code of conduct.
Instead of using the ticketing system, school police and administrators use a series of escalating penalties like mandatory counseling and school community service.
Jeff Gasaway is the Principal at Midway High School. He says there are times when schools should issue citations and they should be prevented from doing so.
"Bringing alcohol onto campus, bringing tobacco onto campus, a major mutual combat fight those are major events in my mind that would not only warrant school consequences but would also warrant legal consequences," Gasaway said.
Though students can’t be immediately ticketed for misconduct, school police can file a complaint with the local district attorney. Then the DA can decide if a class C misdemeanor is warranted.