Does the ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ start with suspensions? This bill aims to find out

Staff Media Mentions

Story by James Barragan, State government reporter
Dallas Morning News
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AUSTIN — The Texas House on Wednesday approved a bill that would require school districts to report demographic data to the state on all out-of-school suspensions.

House Bill 65, introduced by Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, would require school districts to report the race, sex and date of birth of suspended students, as well as information on why the students were suspended and the length of the suspensions. The information could help researchers identify and address the underlying reasons for school suspensions, which research has shown are disproportionately given to African-American boys and children with disabilities.

"Researchers who want to study school discipline need more and better data," Johnson said. "We know that student behavior is a complex topic that requires thoughtful, well-researched solutions. This legislation should help us arrive at the best solutions for all students."

Johnson, who is running for Dallas mayor, said he has worked for years to "dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and to build a school-to-workforce pipeline."

"This bill is an important part of that effort," he said. "Ultimately, we are trying to keep all kids on the path to a successful career."

In 2017, the House passed a bill from Johnson that banned out-of-school suspensions for kids in second grade or earlier grades except in the most extreme cases, such as those involving violent assaults, weapons and/or drugs or alcohol. But many school districts are still using that disciplinary action — some of them unaware of the law.

The new bill would require schools to report how many of these suspensions were issued in an effort to draw attention to the ban. The proposal now moves to the Senate, where Democrat Boris Miles of Houston has proposed similar legislation.

"For those of us who are focused on developing the future workforce of Texas, this is must-pass legislation," Johnson said. "I am optimistic that we will pass this bill into law very soon."