I am doing my summer internship at Texas Appleseed in Austin, TX. Texas Appleseed is a non-profit, advocacy law center that works in a lot of areas including: foster care, juvenile justice, school-to-prison pipeline, payday loan reform, and immigration. During my time here, I will be focusing specifically on issues relating to the school-to-prison pipeline.
School-to-Prison Pipeline (in a nutshell): If you are not familiar with the S2P pipeline, basically, it’s a problematic national trend wherein kids are being channeled out of public schools and into the criminal justice system. Children that have learning disabilities, come from low-income households, and/or have troubled histories are being punished and pushed out of public schools instead of receiving the educational and counseling services that they need. This is partly due to “zero-tolerance” policies that criminalize violations of school rules. These policies have also been shown to disproportionality impact minority students.
So, when I arrived at Texas Appleseed almost three weeks ago, everyone was busy working on a complaint to the Department of Justice about truancy ticketing practices in Dallas County. The complaint focuses on four school districts: Dallas ISD, Mesquite ISD, Garland ISD, and Richardson ISD and claims that the court process used in these districts for prosecuting truancy in adult court is unconstitutional. Texas Appleseed, working alongside Disability Rights Texas and the National Center for Youth Law, argue that prosecuting youths in adult court qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment. They also argue that the various attendance policies violate the civil rights of students with disabilities, health issues, and those students whose first language is not English. The complaint tells the stories of seven students who found themselves in the Dallas County courts for truancy violations and the stories are pretty moving.
Since I started, I have been working on this complaint, and it has been an extremely rewarding and eye-opening experience. I’m very excited to continue my work at Texas Appleseed, and I am excited that my first project has been so important, and I’m interested to see what becomes of it! The complaint was officially filed this morning to the Department of Justice and several news sources have also published articles about the complaint.
I’ve included links to the various news articles below: