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When misbehaving at school leads to criminal charges

In recent months, there have been several news stories from throughout the country about police using force against students.

It comes as a surprise to some people that police officers are used in many schools keep students under control, but the truth is that schools began taking a very serious approach to discipline in the 1990s when "zero-tolerance" policies were adopted.

In fact, in late March, the Houston Chronicle reported that police officers have used force against students and trespassers at least 1,300 times over the past four years at eight of Houston's largest school districts.

Students charged with class C misdemeanors for minor issues

Putting the issue of police officers using force against students aside, there are definite consequences for students who face criminal charges for misbehaving at school, as we discussed in this article.

In Texas, students can even face criminal violations for minor discipline problems such as truancy, tardiness, fighting and dress code violations. These infractions, treated as a class C misdemeanor, are the legal equivalent to insurance fraud, criminal mischief and other serious crimes.

As a result of these offenses, students are often required to attend juvenile court and may end up with a criminal record. Becoming a part of the criminal justice system at such a young age can also set the student on a destructive and criminal path.

A study sheds an alarming light on school disciplinary policies

In 2011, Texas A&M University partnered with the Council of State Governments Justice Center on a study that tracked the disciplinary actions taken against one million seventh grade students from Texas over the course of six years.

The study found that an alarming 60 percent of the students were suspended or expelled at least once throughout junior high or high school, and 15 percent were suspended or expelled more than 10 times. By far, minority students were suspended or expelled the most, often for behavior that white students were not punished for as severely.

What's more is that only 3 percent of the suspensions or expulsions were for incidents that would require criminal charges under the law. The rest were for violations of school policies.

In the wake of the study, some education officials and lawmakers have called for the criminalization of student conduct in schools to be re-examined, but no serious steps have been taken thus far.

Don't let the criminalization of student misconduct ruin your child's life

If your child faces criminal charges for misbehaving, or allegedly misbehaving, at school, a criminal defense lawyer can help defend his or her rights and future. In addition to resulting in a criminal record, your child could also be kicked out of school and steered down a dangerous path if the allegations are not fought.

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