The Austin City Council approved a resolution Thursday to create a study committee on the school-to-prison pipeline.
That's a term used to describe practices in schools that expose students to the wrong side of the criminal justice system. One example is when schools turn to law enforcement to address student misbehavior, such as receiving a criminal citation for disorderly conduct.
“The definition of disorderly conduct is so broad that it could encompass any sort of behavior that a person observing the behavior, you know, deems disorderly," said Morgan Craven, director of the School-To-Prison Pipeline project at Texas Appleseed, a nonprofit organization that researches inequities in the justice system. "So it includes language, odors, loud noises.”
Disorderly conduct qualifies as a Class C misdemeanor, which means students must report to adult criminal court and can be fined up to $500. Research shows once a student is exposed to the criminal justice system, that student is less likely to graduate or pursue higher education.
The resolution passed Thursday says a disproportionate number of students of color are facing these legal consequences. The work group created by the resolution will include government and community representatives who will find alternatives to sending students through the court system. The group will submit a report on its findings by the end of 2018.
Caroline Covington contributed to this report.