News Roundup: Report Says Suspending Young Kids From School Isn’t Effective

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelMarch 26, 2018 2:05 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

A report out today finds that in spite of a new Texas law, the state has a long way to go when it comes to reducing school suspension rates for young kids.

Stephanie Rubin, the CEO of advocacy group Texans Care for Children, which released this research, says suspending five and six-year-olds is not effective.

“It doesn’t improve their behavior,” Rubin says. “It doesn’t address underlying issues that may be causing the behavior, like a developmental delay, or trauma at home, or maybe it’s just age appropriate behavior for little kids.”

In 2017, state lawmakers passed House Bill 674 that prohibits out-of-school suspensions for public school students in pre-k through second grade, except for narrow circumstances, like bringing a gun to school. Rubin says that’s a major step forward, but Texas in-school suspension rates are still concerning.

“And in the 2015-2016 school year, schools suspended about 101,000 young students in pre-k through second grade,” Rubin says. “And the majority of those suspensions, about 65,000, were for in-school suspensions.”

Rubin points out that when it comes to doling out suspensions, schools are more likely to target certain students over others.

“We found that in pre-k through second grade, Texas schools are almost three times more likely to suspend black students than other students, and four times more likely to suspend boys than girls,” she says. “We also found that schools are almost three times more likely to suspend kids in foster care compared to their classmates, and more than twice as likely to suspend kids in special education in pre-k through second.”

Rubin says there are a number of strategies the state can take to reduce suspensions, and various school districts are already moving ahead with some of them. Those include helping students learn how to manage their emotions and conflict through models such as Social Emotional Learning and creating a positive school climate. Rubin also points to the need for more mental health counselors and smaller class sizes. The organization is sharing their research with state lawmakers Monday as members of the Senate Committee on Education consider several issues, including student discipline.

Texas Congressman Michael McCaul says the Austin bombings may lead lawmakers to consider creating a criminal charge for domestic terrorism.

The Austin American Statesman reports that U.S. Representative McCaul, an Austin-area Republican, made the comments during a press conference on Saturday. McCaul, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, noted there is no charge for domestic terrorism, just a legal definition.

“But having said that I think it’s unequivocal that this man, this individual, this sick individual, terrorized the city of Austin and this community and he terrorized it for over three weeks,” McCaul told reporters.

23-year-old Mark Conditt, a white male from Pflugerville, confessed to the bombings that killed two people and injured four others in a video found on a cell phone found after his death. Conditt detonated a seventh explosive device in his car while authorities closed in on him in Round Rock, north of Austin.

Families of several victims have set up memorial funds.

The fund for 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House who was killed in the first bombing, and is survived by his wife and daughter, can be found here.

The one for 17-year-old Draylen Mason, killed in the second bombing incident can be found here.

The fund for 75-year-old Esperanza Herrera, who was injured in the third blast, can be found here.

Students at Bellaire High School in Houston organized a bipartisan Day of Unity Sunday.

Among the high profile attendees were Republican Senator Ted Cruz and Democratic Representative Joaquin Castro. One of the organizers told the Texas Tribune that they held the event because the country’s “being ripped apart from within. Our social fabric is tearing.”

Senator Cruz counseled students to try to understand how someone could hold a totally different opinion than them on an issue they’re passionate about. Castro announced that he’s holding a town hall meeting on April 3, where he has specifically invited people who disagree with him.