School-to-Prison Pipeline

Zero tolerance disciplinary policies, increased reliance on law enforcement and courts to address student misbehavior, and hostile school climates all contribute to a school-to-prison pipeline in Texas. Texas Appleseed is working to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and keep children in school and on track to graduate. We research, analyze data and report on issues such as school disciplinary policies; ticketing, arrest and use of force in public schools; court involvement in student discipline; and the effectiveness of alternative education programs to help close pathways to dropout and incarceration. Working on a number of fronts, we advocate for policy changes on the state level, as well as the local and school district level, that close pathways to dropout and incarceration.


  • Texas Education Agency Complaint & Comments. Texas Appleseed, Disability Rights Texas, and the National Center for Youth Law, concerned that local school districts still refer students to court for truancy without providing legally-required prevention and intervention services, have called on the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to provide stronger guidance to ensure districts comply with the state’s revised truancy laws. The guidance is addressed via our comments, submitted in response to new rules issued by TEA, as required by HB 2398. Our groups have also filed complaints with TEA alleging that El Paso ISD and Mesquite ISD continue to refer students with disabilities to court for truancy rather than providing services mandated under HB 2398, which decriminalized truancy and prioritized school-based prevention and intervention for students who are truant. October 17, 2016
  • Truancy Reform Victory for Texas Families. The Texas Legislature passed a bill to decriminalize truancy. Read our statement here. May 30, 2015
  • Texas Appleseed Truancy Report Released. Class, Not Court: Reconsidering Texas’ Criminalization of Truancy. Access our full report, press release and infographic. March 2015
  • Texas Appleseed worked intensively with policymakers and stakeholders on the passage of two pieces of legislation that limit the ability of school police to issue tickets and that eliminated most charges for disruption of class. New data released in October 2014 shows that this legislation contributed to a greater than 50 percent drop in all non-traffic, non-truancy-related Class C misdemeanors filed against juveniles overall, and an 83 percent decline in certain non-truancy-related Class C misdemeanors found in the Education Code related to school-based misbehavior. October 2014
  • Texas Appleseed along with NAACP LDF spearhead a letter from 20+ organizations calling for an end to the U.S. Department of Defense 1033 Program that provides surplus military weapons to local law enforcement, including 10 Texas school districts. September 2014
  • Texas Appleseed and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid produce a series of videos to assist youth charged with Class C misdemeanors, who are unrepresented by counsel, with navigating the court process and raising a defense. May 2014
  • Texas Appleseed published first-of-its-kind research, beginning in 2007, documenting the school-to-prison pipeline and showing the correlation between harsh discipline practices with school dropout and involvement in the justice system.


  • Saw a more than 50% drop in the number of Class C tickets issued to school children for minor misbehavior after legislation pushed by Appleseed passed in 2013.
  • Helped end Texas’ school discipline zero tolerance policies by ensuring that schools take into account a student’s mental disabilities and intent before meting out punishment.
  • Advocated for new laws that prohibit expelling students for minor misbehavior, and requires a school to consider a student’s intent and disabilities when considering expulsion, resulting in a 28% drop in the number of students expelled from school in the 2013/2014 school year.

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