Imagine your first grader coming home with a ticket for talking and disrupting class instead of a punish assignment? Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Yet it is exactly what is being done in Texas, and the number of tickets issued to kids are on the rise.
The majority of tickets being issued are for students that get in fights, curse their teachers or are generally disorderly. In Dallas alone, during the course of one school year, 92 criminal citations were issued to 10-year-olds. Several districts ticketed a 6-year-old at least once in the last five years.
The most common tickets, often given for disorderly conduct or classroom disruption, can have fines of between $250 to $500. While most require parents to take their child to municipal courts to pay the fine, some require the child to perform community service.
Many believe this is simply not the way to punish a child, including Texas Appleseed, the nonprofit research and advocacy group focusing on social and economic justice, that collected the data reflecting the number of ticket issued to schoolchildren.
Deborah Fowler, Texas Appleseed’s legal director objects to the practice:
“The question becomes whether or not ticketing is an effective method of dealing with a student making noise in class. We’re not talking about the kind of behavior [police] would see on the street,” Fowler says. “The parent ends up bearing the brunt of the fine, time off work and court costs, and it’s not really a meaningful punishment for children. … Also, there’s a sort of absurdity to issuing a ticket to a 10-year-old child.”
Area politicians are also concerned. State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston says he would like to introduce a bill to change the current the practice. “It just seems like the school districts have gone into the criminal justice business,” he says. “I know one thing: We’re going to have all this data reported to the state. That alone could go alone way toward fixing this kind of problem.”
Houston Assistant Police Chief Victor Mitchell says the tickets don’t always work. ” Some kids, it doesn’t even faze them. It’s just a piece of paper. Some kids are concerned because they know their parents are going to be concerned. But some kids have become immune to it.”
What do you think? Do tickets ever work for elementary age school children? How about high school students? Should tickets ever be issued to children for talking or disrupting class?