$227 Million: The Cost of Breaking the Rules in Texas Schools

Everything's bigger in Texas—including how much is spent on suspensions and expulsions.

Disciplinary practices are costing schools millions of dollars each year. (Photo: Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Jenny Inglee is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the Education Editor at TakePart.

In Texas, harsh disciplinary practices took center stage this week after a study revealed just how much it's costing the state to punish students who misbehave.

Eleven districts, serving one million kids, spent a total of $140 million from 2010-2011 on disciplining student. School security also had a hefty price tag. Eighty-seven million dollars was spent on security, monitoring services, and campus policing.

The $140 million included out-of-school suspensions, referrals to Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs (DAEPs), and discretionary expulsions to Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Programs (JJAEPs).

Kathryn Freeman, the staff attorney at Texas Appleseed, the organization that completed the study, says that these types of disciplinary practices are ineffective. She tells TakePart "they harm students academically" and when you remove a student who misbehaves, you are increasing their risk of dropping out and their chance at ending up in the juvenile justice system.

More: The Shocking Suspension Rate of Black Students Comes Under Fire in Florida

In Texas, there is a law on the books against zero-tolerance policies in schools. However, Freeman says, "From what we hear from parents, this is not actually occurring."

PBS NewsHour reported in June that a 17-year-old in Willis, Texas, was jailed for 24 hours for missing class. She was an honor student and was locked up for contempt of court after being warned to stop skipping school.

A 2011 study by the Council of State Governments found that nearly 60 percent of students in Texas public schools were suspended or expelled at least one time between 7th and 12th grade. This represents how prevalent suspension and expulsions are nationwide. In California, for example, the Department of Education reports there were over 750,000 suspensions in the 2010-2011 school year.

Texas Appleseed makes several suggestions on disciplinary methods they see as more effective. Not only do they believe these practices will see better results for students and teachers, they suggest that these methods could save the districts money. This could come in handy right about now. Last year, a $5.4 billion cut in state funding for public education was approved.

Texas Appleseed recommends that districts consider:

  • Limiting out-of-school suspensions to misbehavior that impacts school and student safety (thereby increasing district’s state funding reimbursements for average daily attendance).
  • Amending Student Codes of Conduct to limit the potential for a DAEP referral to only serious offenses where other forms of intervention have not proven successful or campus safety is at risk.
  • Targeting school policing and security and monitoring services to campuses where they are truly needed.
  • Providing additional training in effective classroom management to administration and staff at campuses with high numbers of out-of-school suspensions and DAEP and JJAEP referrals.

Appleseed's Deputy Director Deborah Fowler says their intent is "not to point a finger at spending in the surveyed school districts, but to open a dialogue with schools about different approaches to student discipline that are more effective and less costly to implement."

Do you think schools should choose alternative disciplinary methods instead of suspension and expulsion? Share your thoughts in comments.

Jenny is the Education Editor at TakePart. She has been writing for TakePart since 2009 and previously worked in film and television development. She has taught English in Vietnam and tutors homeless children in Los Angeles. Email Jenny | @jennyinglee | TakePart.com

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