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Legal to Send Students to Court Instead of Detention?

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on August 24, 2011 9:46 AM

It used to be detention and a trip to the principal's office. Maybe suspension. But these days, school ticketing seems to have taken over traditional disciplinary measures in many of the nation's educational institutions, throwing children as young as 5 in front of a judge.

Citations, which can lead to hundreds of dollars in fines and community service, are given for running in the hallway, classroom disruption, and bringing soda to school.

How is this even legal?

And is it even right?

One of the larger proponents of school ticketing is Texas, where the state legislature granted school officers the power to hand out Class C Misdemeanor citations for even the smallest of disciplinary infractions.

Ticketed students must make mandatory appearances in front of a judge, reports the Washington Post, where they are given the option of paying a fine or paying for more costly classes designed to teach anger management and decision-making skills.

Those who come from low-income households are hurt the most, with many parents unable to afford the cost of classes, instead opting for the criminal record, which may come back to haunt the child at a later age.

There is increasing concern about the emergence of school ticketing, prompting the federal government to get involved with what is termed the "school to prison pipeline," reports the Washington Post.

Students who appear in court are more likely to drop out of school, and the paper reports that, in Texas, they're also more likely to be African-American.

Regardless of these facts, school ticketing is legal.

Aside from potential questions about excessive punishment, there is no federal or constitutional protection from school ticketing. Thus, if a state wants to make running in the halls a misdemeanor offense, it can.

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