Educators are reacting to a recent study of Texas public schools that found students who were disciplined were more likely to be involved in the juvenile justice system and do poorly academically. The study, by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, also found that 60 percent of Texas public school students received some form of punishment at least once between seventh and 12th grades.
“Policymakers should be asking if the school discipline system is getting the outcomes they want it to get,” Michael Thompson, director of the center, told The Washington Post. The study was co-authored by Texas A&M University’s Public Policy Research Institute.
Researchers collected data from about 1 million public school students who began seventh grade in 2000, 2001 or 2002. Nearly 15 percent were involved in some way with the juvenile justice system.
“That’s astronomical,” Joe Erhardt, a science teacher at Kingwood Park High School in the Houston suburb of Humble, Tex., told The New York Times. “I’m at a loss.”
While the report doesn’t claim to prove a direct causal relationship between school discipline and involvement in the justice system, “it’s fair to say that school discipline is highly related to these outcomes and strongly predicts these results,” the study said.
In an interview with The Times, Doug Otto, superintendent of the Plano Independent School District, said the data showed that “suspensions are a little too easy.”
“Once they become automatic, we’ve really hurt that child’s chances to receive a high school diploma,” he added.
The study also found that nearly 15 percent of students were suspended or expelled 11 times or more. Of those suspended at least 11 times, nearly half were involved with the juvenile justice system.