The Continued Downward Spiral of School Discipline in Texas

Over the last fifteen years, there has been a steady rise in the disruptive and disrespectful behavior by students that are being ignored by the school administration.  This is due to the administrators’ “fear of acting”.  If they take action on a particular discipline problem that requires or warrants In-School Suspension, Out-of-School Suspension or DAEP (Disciplinary Alternative Education Placement) assignment then their actions must be recorded in the PEIMS records.

The PEIMS records are used to create the annual Performance-Based Monitoring Analysis System (PBMAS). The creation of the PBMAS system was the first step in the erosion of school discipline.  It began with the first district-level reports were produced in 2004, followed by the first state-level report in 2006. A requirement of the system generated a rating scale based on the date submitted (0-1) rating would indicate that the data was close to the desired data point designated by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). An indicator of 2, 3, or 4 would require the district to write a “corrective action plan” that must be put into place. A level 4 plan required more action than a level 2 plan.

So many districts, in response to this reporting system, have instructed their campus administration to “minimize” the number of incidents that required PEIMS reporting.  As time went forward of the next fifteen years students learned that there would be few if any consequences for inappropriate behaviors. It does not matter if the Texas Education Code, Board Policy, prohibits a particular action, behavior, or Student Code of Conduct; if it can be ignored when it will be ignored so that they are not required to report it to PEIMS. In the end, the district goal of not writing a corrective action plan will be accomplished, at the expense of poor discipline, which also affects classroom instruction.

That was just the first step in the process of handcuffing administrators to a point of not being able to do the right things. The second occurred during the 2013 Texas Legislative Session; Senate Bill 393 filed by Senator Royce West prohibits the issuing of citations to students for misdemeanor offenses on campus. Prior to this, police on campus could issue citations for fighting, disruptive behavior, or using profanity.

Six years later, it is now common for students to cuss out their teachers or administrators and there will not be any action taken to discipline them or correct their behavior. Some people might think, just suspend them; NOPE, that goes in PEIMS.

For the last 15-year student discipline and management has been on a downward fall due mostly to the poor legislation that has been passed in Austin. In order to reverse this downward trend, it will take some very bold school leaders both at the central office and at the building level. They must be willing to make the tough choices to set a standard and then live up to that standard.

PBMAS had another negative effect, the under-identification of Special Education Students. The system created a made-up cap on the number or percentage of students in a district that could be identified as Special Education. As with the discipline portion of PBMAS, if the district exceeded the assigned cap, then they would be required to write a corrective action plan. After 15-years in January 2018, the US Department of Education rules the 8.5% cap as illegal. Now, during the 2019 Texas Legislative session, they must find a reported $3 Billion Dollars over the next 3 years to fix the problem.

Most problems in Texas Public Education were created by a manufactured system by the Texas Legislature. The repeal of PBMAS will go a long ways towards solving many problems.

 

David R. Taylor

31-Year Teacher, Coach, and Principal

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