Texas Students Thrown in Jail for Days ... as Punishment for Missing School?
June 13, 2013 |
School tardiness and absences come at a high cost in Dallas, Texas. Gone are the days of detention and writing lines on the chalkboard; now students are fined, even jailed.
The enforcement of the state’s truancy laws, which were strengthened substantially in 2003, have led to a range of abuses, according to a complaint filed Wednesday with the U.S. Department of Justice:
- Students have been taken out of school in handcuffs, held in jail for days at a time, and fines have totaled more than $1,000 for students who miss more than 10 days of school.
- The students who are hauled into court to face truancy or lateness charges are not provided with legal counsel. The only lawyers in the courtroom are the judge and a member of the district attorney’s office, unless the student’s family can afford their own representation.
- Defendants are charged court fees even if they prevail in fighting the accusations, discouraging people from exercising their right to a full hearing.
The complaint, filed by a coalition of advocacy groups for young people and the disabled, targets the Dallas, Garland, Mesquite, and Richardson school districts in Texas and urges the Justice Department to force reforms and “declare the practice of criminally prosecuting children as adults for truancy” a violation of their constitutional rights. MORE