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"The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund is simply the best civil rights law firm in American history." -- President Obama

Civil Rights Complaint Filed Against Texas School District for Issuing Class C Misdemeanor Tickets at Higher Rate to African-American Students

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (“LDF”) joined other advocates in filing a federal civil rights complaint challenging a Texas school district’s practice of using law enforcement officers to issue criminal misdemeanor tickets to students for minor behavioral infractions.  The complaint outlines discriminatory patterns in the ticketing practice.  Nearly half of all misdemeanor tickets issued are for non-criminal conduct such as “disruption of class” and using cuss words.  And African-American students are four times more likely than all other students to receive a ticket for these types of categories.

The complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) on behalf of impacted students and two local organizations – Texas Appleseed and the Brazos County branch of the NAACP.  LDF and the National Center for Youth Law served as counsel.

The Byran ISD Complaint marks the latest effort in LDF’s “Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline” initiative.  With expertise in both education and criminal justice, LDF staff members engage in strategic legal advocacy on school discipline issues, designed to replace punitive approaches to school discipline with policies that reduce reliance on exclusion, eliminate racial disparities and improve academic achievement.  Through legislative advocacy and public education efforts, LDF provides key information on the harms of exclusionary discipline and police activity in schools.  LDF also provides leadership in several national coalitions to reform school discipline, including the Dignity in Schools Campaign and the School-to-Prison Pipeline Legal Strategies Collaborative.

AUSTIN, Texas – Bryan Independent School District’s use of school resource officers to issue criminal sanctions for a range of minor student misbehavior unlawfully impacts African-American students, who are “cited” at a rate four times that of other students, according to a complaint filed today with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), on behalf of the public interest law center Texas Appleseed and the Brazos County branch of the NAACP.  

Attorneys with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the National Center for Youth Law serve as legal counsel to the Complainants.

The complaint outlines a historical and continuing pattern of issuing “Class C misdemeanor” tickets to students for “Disruption of Class” and “Disorderly Conduct-Language” (generally meaning profanity).  These ticketing categories encompass minor behavior that is not generally deemed “criminal” and disproportionately harms African-American students in Bryan ISD.  In Texas, such ticketing can mean missed class time due to required appearances in adult justice of the peace or municipal courts, fines, and the potential for a criminal record in addition to any other school-based punishment.

Read the full press release.