ACLU Of Texas: Top Priority Is Keeping Kids In School
AUSTIN – A national publication has named Dallas and Houston as two of the country’s “dropout epicenters.” This alarming report along with statewide news about lagging high school graduation rates underscores the importance of this year’s American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas annual meeting.
The ACLU of Texas Annual Meeting and Youth Rights Conference is set for July 31 in Austin. The Saturday session will focus on education and finding alternatives to zero tolerance and other policies which funnel students out of classrooms and into prisons.
In a recently released report, “Diplomas Count,” Education Week named Houston and Dallas as dropout epicenters, together accounting for about one-fifth of the country’s dropouts. The report also points out that the state’s high school graduation rate is below 70 percent.
ACLU of Texas Executive Director Terri Burke said, “Priority number one should be to keep kids in school. Treating a minor disciplinary violation as a criminal issue is not in the best interest of the student, nor is it in the best interest of a state which should be boasting about its graduation rates and a top-class educational system.”
A focus of the ACLU of Texas and its annual meeting will be the so-called “school-to-prison pipeline,” a term used for policies which funnel children out of the school system and into the state’s prison system. The meeting will also examine the effects of truancy laws that place students in jail. “Sending a child to jail for failure to attend school makes about as much sense as debtor’s prison,” said Burke.
“Part of being a Texan is having enormous pride in almost all things Texas,” Burke added. “These abysmal measures of the state’s educational system aren’t anything to be proud of.”
Public school districts in Texas and across the country increasingly rely on law enforcement and the criminal justice system to intervene in school disciplinary issues and to enforce campus rules and codes of conduct. This move to “criminalize” disciplinary violations has resulted in the school-to-prison pipeline.
The Annual Meeting and Youth Rights Conference will be headlined by Ed Burns — writer, producer and co-creator of HBO's "The Wire" — who will share the insight gained from his years as a police detective and as a teacher in Baltimore's inner-city schools, experiences he is now using in his efforts to create positive educational environments.
For more about the 2010 ACLU of Texas Annual Meeting and Youth Rights Conference, including an updated list of speakers and registration information, please visit http://aclutx.org/annualmeeting
ACLU of Texas
P.O. Box 12905
Austin, TX 78711
(512)478-7300 ext. 103