Earlier this month, two middle-school girls from Garland ISD were suspended for sharing an inhaler when one of them had an asthma attack. Just last week, a 15-year-old boy from Killeen ISD was suspended for carrying a student having an asthma attack to the nurse’s office after the teacher told him to stay in the class.
What’s the rationale behind these seemingly heavy-handed punishments? Morgan Craven, from the non-profit Texas Appleseed, says zero-tolerance policies at the district level often result in suspensions.
“The Texas education code state law lays out the types of offenses that have to be punished by placements in these disciplinary alternative education programs or expulsions,” Craven says. “The same provision in the Texas education code also gives power to school districts to create other offenses that can result in suspensions or alternative school placements.”
Craven says the law instructs school districts to consider several factors before administering punishments for offenses, including a student’s intent.
“(I’m) not commenting on specific cases,” Craven says, “But it sounds like the intent factor could and should have been considered and should be considered in many of these unbelievable stores that we hear about.”
She says that removing students from classrooms is harmful for students, and often disproportionally target students of color.
“We know from years of research that removing children from class,” Craven says, “particularly for these minor offenses, increases the likelihood of grade retention, of high school dropout and contact with juvenile justice system.”
Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.“