Education Justice - Key Accomplishments

Legislative gains

  • 2023: HB 473 strengthens parental involvement in the school-based threat assessment process.
  • 2019: Spearheaded efforts surrounding SB 1707, which limits school police officer duties so that they are not involved in routine student discipline. The law also requires that school districts write out the roles and responsibilities of school police, including in student codes of conduct.
  • 2019: SB 11 is the omnibus school safety bill that includes provisions Texas Appleseed advocated for, particularly formulating threat assessment teams in Texas school districts. Passed with the tragedies of Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe, Texas, in mind, each district must establish a threat assessment and safe and supportive school team and receive training from the Texas School Safety Center or a regional educational service center. SB 11 also includes a school safety allotment, at just under $10 per student, and districts can use it to invest in more mental health support services for their campuses. 
  • 2017: Advocated for passage of HB 674, which prohibits out-of-school suspensions for pre-K through 2nd grade students, with the exception of some offenses required by law.
  • 2015: Advocated for passage of HB 2398, which decriminalizes truancy in Texas. The law changes the way school districts and courts treat children who have unexcused absences from school, making it a civil matter, and putting Texas in step with how 48 other states treat truancy.
  • 2015: Helped with passage of HB 2684, which requires school districts with an enrollment of 30,000 or more students to adopt a youth-focused education and training program for school resource officers and school district police officers.
  • 2013: Saw a more than 50% drop in the number of Class C tickets issued to school children for minor misbehavior after legislation pushed by Appleseed passed in 2013.
  • 2013: Two bills in 2013, SB 393 and SB 1114, virtually eliminated the ability to ticket students under age 17 for school-related misbehavior.
  • 2011: Succeeded in helping pass new state laws to restrict student ticketing for younger students.
  • 2009: Succeeded in helping pass new state laws to eliminate expulsions from disciplinary alternative schools for persistent minor misbehavior, and require school districts to consider a student’s intent and disability when making disciplinary decisions.

School-to-prison pipeline research

  • March 2019: Our white paper, Guarding Our Most Precious Resources, looks at the way schools are staffed with counselors and mental health professionals compared with school police. One finding is that schools are unevenly resourced and that schools greatly need more counseling and mental health resources.
  • February 2019: In Texas: State of School Discipline, we feature the latest data from the Texas Education Agency and also examine the impact of exclusionary discipline on students with disabilities, students of color, and our state’s youngest students.
  • July 2018: Our report, Collateral Consequences, looked at data from the Texas Juvenile Justice Department for referrals to juvenile probation for “terroristic threat” or “exhibition, use, or threat of exhibition or use of firearms." The report revealed that students were being unnecessarily arrested and funneled into the juvenile justice system, and that schools were failing to distinguish between actual safety threats and ordinary child behavior. In 2019, with support from Texas Appleseed, the Texas Legislature is requiring school districts to form and receive training for threat assessment teams.
  • August 2016 (Data Update April 2017): Our Suspended Childhood report analyzed exclusionary discipline of Texas’ pre-K and elementary school students. Our advocacy on this issue led to statewide changes. Texas' pre-K through 2nd grade students can no longer receive an out-of-school suspension for minor behavior after legislation supported by Texas Appleseed passed in 2017.
  • December 2016: With data collected from Texas school districts, municipal courts, juvenile probation departments, the Texas Education Agency and student surveys, we published Dangerous Discipline with our partner, Texans Care for Children. The report showed that students in Texas schools are arrested, sent to adult criminal courts, referred to juvenile probation, and experience use of force incidents at alarming rates, often for relatively minor misbehaviors.
  • December 2010: Published major report about Texas’ practice of ticketing and arresting students and using force in schools.
  • April 2010: Published major report on the disproportionate impact of discretionary school expulsion on minority and special education students.
  • October 2007: Published major report focusing on in-school and out-of-school student suspension and referrals to Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs.

Participated in large-scale, Texas-based research

  • 2011: Contributed to landmark reporting by the Council of State Governments Justice Center that shed new light on the school-to-prison pipeline and reinforced Texas Appleseed’s earlier research findings.

Parent and student resources

  • 2018: Launched Make My School Safe with partners Disability Rights Texas and the Earl Carl Institute. The toolkit was designed to provide members of school communities and policymakers with answers to fundamental questions about school safety, law enforcement in schools, students’ rights, and the impacts of school safety strategies on students with disabilities. 
  • 2016: Launched Texas Discipline Lab, a website created to provide innovative, practical, and lasting solutions to systemic problems related to school discipline and the juvenile justice system.
  • 2014: Developed a new, free video series called Youth In Court with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, based on TRLA’s handbooks. The videos explain the court process and how students can defend themselves if charged with a Class C misdemeanor for a school-based criminal offense.
  • 2009: Developed and distributed a parent guide about school discipline.

Changing practices through administrative complaints

  • 2013: Texas Appleseed joined the Brazos County NAACP, NAACP LDF, and the National Center for Youth Law in filing a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, alleging discrimination against Bryan ISD for disparities in Class C misdemeanor tickets issued to African-American students for Disruption of Class and Disorderly Conduct.
  • 2013: Texas Appleseed joined the National Center for Youth Law and Disability Rights Texas in filing a complaint with the Department of Justice against Dallas County and four Dallas area school districts, alleging civil rights and constitutional violations related to truancy prosecutions.