Texas' School to Prison Pipeline

Student in school

Texas Appleseed researches and reports on the impact of school discipline 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.

Latest News...


Our new report, Class, Not Court: Reconsidering Texas' Criminalization of Truancy, examines truancy policies and practices in Texas schools and courts.  Date revealed that economically disadvantaged children, African-American and Hispanic students, and those with disabilities were disproportionately harmed by truancy policies and practices. The report includes other key finding and policy recommendations for the Texas Education Agency, school districts, as well as overall legislative recommendations.

Our new video with our statewide and local partners, released March 30, includes recent stats on truancy in Texas, messages from Former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson, and how you can join the movement to encourage truancy reform.


Grenade launchers, M16 assault rifles, and other weapons intended for military combat are making their way onto K-12 campuses for use by school district police. Read our letter to the Department of Defense's Defense Logistics Agency, which we and more than 20 education and civil rights advocacy organizations from across the U.S. have signed onto, calling for a discontinuation of the program for K-12 school districts.

Read the letter to the DLA
Related Resources: Press Release


On April 15, 2014, Texas Appleseed and coalition of advocacy organizations concerned with student safety again urged Governor Rick Perry to declare a moratorium on the use of Tasers and pepper spray on Texas students.

Read the Letter to Gov. Perry
Related Resources: Letter to Texas Commission on Law Enforcement 

Texas Appleseed and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. have released a new series of videos designed to help youth who are accused of school-based Class C misdemeanors defend themselves in court. The videos below, in English and Spanish, were produced with the generous financial support of the Texas Bar Foundation. Our joint press release has more information.

Introduction Videos

Youth In Court: Defending Yourself Against a Class C Misdemeanor Charge

Jóvenes en Corte: Defendiéndote Contra un Cargo Menor Clase C

Click below to watch our offense-specific videos:

Defending Against a Failure to Attend School Charge

Defendiéndote Contra un Cargo de Absentismo Escolar

Defending Against a Disorderly Conduct Charge

Defendiéndote Contra un Cargo de Conducta Desordenada

Defending Against an Assault Charge

Defendiéndote Contra un Cargo de Asalto Menor Clase C


Texas RioGrade Legal Aid (TRLA) has published an updated series of guides for students and parent of students charged with school-related misdemeanors and forced to defend themselves in Justice of the Peace (JP) or municipal court. Download the guides here. 

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) ha publicado una serie de guías para estudiantes y los padres de estudiantes que han sido acusados de delitos menores escolares y que tendrán que defenderse a sí mismos en los tribunales JP o municipal. Puede descargar las guías aquí. 

Defending Against an Assault Charge / Defensa Contra un Cargo de Agresión

Defending Against a Disorderly Conduct Charge / Defensa Contra un Cargo de Conducta Desordenada

Defending Against a Failure to Attend School Charge / Defensa Contra un Cargo de Ausencia Escolar

Children With Disabilities / Niños con Discapacidades

  • APPLESEED, OTHER JUSTICE GROUPS SAY IT'S TIME: BAN USING TASERS, PEPPER SPRAY ON SCHOOL CHILDREN. Only weeks after a student suffered traumatic brain injury as a result of being tased at school, Texas Appleseed is urging the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement to adopt a statewide policy that bans the use of pepper spray, stun guns, and Tasers on students by school police officers attempting to restore order in school. We are part of a coalition of seven civil rights and social justice groups seeking this change to protect children.
        JOINT LETTER TO TCLE   12.4.2013      PRESS RELEASE 12.5.2013


Fact Sheet:  School-to-Prison Pipeline in Texas

School Ticketing Implementation Guide

Guide to Prosecution for School Truancy in Texas

Student Guide to Impact on School Discipline (SB 393 & 1114, 2013)

Complaint filed with U.S Department of Justice by Texas Appleseed, Disability Rights Texas, National Center for Youth Law  6.13.2013
Summary - Complaint filed with DOJ

Truancy Research  3.2013
Breaking Rules, Breaking Budgets: Cost of Exclusionary Discipline in 11 Texas School Districts 
Latest Ticketing and Arrest Data for 40+ Texas School Districts  4.2013
Texas Appleseed Testimony 12.11.2012  Submitted in writing for the nation's first Congressional hearing on the school-to-prison pipeline (U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights)



Dallas ISD Police Push to Reduce Citations Given to Students, Dallas Morning News, 1.14.2013
11Texas Districts Spent $227 Million a Year On Discipline
, The Atlanta Constitution, 11.5.2012
School Discipline Policies Too Harsh, Senators Say, Houston Chronicle, 10.30.2012



Texas Appleseed's work has attracted media coverage from outlets in Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, and France.
The U.S. Schools with Their Own Police
, The Guardian, 1.9.2012  References Texas Appleseed's school-to-prison pipeline work and our 2011 report on Class C misdemeanor ticketing and arrest at schools in Texas for minor misbehavior.  

Ticketing_Booklet_cover Ticketing, Arrest & Use of Force in Schools and Executive Summary and Press Release


Texas Appleseed's work is featured at these links on National Public Radio, the Washington Post, and The New York Times ... and here in Texas, in the The Texas Tribune and Houston Chronicle.

One Way to Guarantee More Trouble, The New York Times editorial, 7.30.2011
Texas Schools Study - Most Kids Have Been Suspended, National Public Radio, 7.19.2011
Half of Texas Students Have Been Suspended, Study Finds
, Education Week, 7.19.2011


PBS NewsHour:

Harsh Punishment for Misbehavior in Texas Schools

Misbehavior that in another era might have resulted in a trip to the principal's office now leads to fines, citations, even criminal records in some cases in Texas.


 Fox & Friends (national broadcast)
Video: Guest views on Texas Appleseed report on student ticketing
, 1.14.2011
Video: Appleseed Deputy Director interviewed
, 1.29.2011

KVUE-TV, Austin
Video: Student Says She was Ticketed for Wearing Too Much Perfume

 KTRK-TV, Houston 
Video: Report Questions Tickets Given to Students
, 1.12.2011


Information for Parents and Students

The Texas school-to-prison pipeline begins with a combination of laws and school discipline policies that push students out of the classroom to punish them for misbehavior, like suspensions and expulsions, and handle student misbehavior in courts, rather than in schools. The interaction of these laws and policies make it less likely that students -- and particularly students of color and special education students -- will graduate from high school, and make it more likely their paths will lead to the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

 We can change the laws and policies pushing Texas school students into the pipeline to the criminal justice system, but we need your help.  Please share your story with us about how unfair school discipline affected you or someone you know, using the form below.  We will never use your name or story, or share your contact information, without your permission. Even if you don't have a story to share, please join our email list, "like" Texas Appleseed on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter @TexasAppleseed. With your support, we can end the school-to-prison pipeline for good.

Here are some resources to learn more:

Share Your Story

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Project Timeline

March 27, 2012 
Texas Appleseed releases  its first "cost of discipline" study for a major school district--calculating it cost Dallas ISD more than $11 million to remove 25,000 students from their home campuses in 2010-11.  Calculations for more Texas school districts will be released soon.  Press Release and DISD Study


February 23, 2011  In the State of the Judiciary Address to the 82nd Legislature, Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court Wallace Jefferson emphasizes that criminalization of minor misbehavior can exacerbate our school dropout problems.  His address cites Texas Appleseed's school-to-prison pipeline research. State of the Judiciary Address


January 20, 2011 Texas Appleseed releases the third in a series of reports on the school-to-prison pipeline.


Ticketing, Arrest & Use of Force in Schools

Executive Summary

April 29, 2010 Texas Appleseed Board member Ronald Lewis and TA Legal Director Deborah Fowler are invited to testify on expulsion and ticketing of students before the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee.


April 23, 2010 The Dallas Morning News publishes an op ed by Texas Appleseed Legal Director Deborah Fowler on the latest school-to-prison pipeline findings.
Overhaul Texas' School Expulsion Policies


April 14, 2010 Texas Appleseed releases a new report documenting the disproportionate impact of school expulsions on minority and special education students.


Pro Bono Partners & Funders

Our current pro bono partners are Marshall & Lewis LLP, Mayer Brown LLP, Crews Law Firm, P.C. and Vinson & Elkins LLP, with assistance from Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP.  In the first year, Scott Fletcher and Lizzie Pannill with Vinson and Elkins coordinated pro bono involvement of volunteers at these nine law firms: Ahmad, Zavitsanos & Anaipakos, P.C.; Denton, Navarro, Rocha & Bernal, PC; Escamilla & Poneck, Inc.; ExxonMobil; Greenberg Traurig, LLP; Mayer Brown LLP; Patton Boggs LLP; and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP

Providing generous financial support are Houston Endowment; The Meadows Foundation; Harold Simmons Foundation; Rockwell Fund, Inc.; and The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.



See top of this page for links to Cost of Discipline Studies.


Texas’ School-to-Prison Pipeline — School Expulsion, The Path from Lockout to Dropout
Texas Appleseed, April 2010





Texas' School-to-Prison Pipeline, Dropout to Incarceration: The Impact of School Discipline and Zero Tolerance
Texas Appleseed, October 2007

Data Update: 2008 - 2009
Executive Summary
Resumen Ejecutivo

Data Tables
School-to-Prison Power Point



When My Child Is Disciplined At
Cuando Mi Hijo Es Displinado en la Escuela: Una Guia Para Las Familias

Texas Appleseed, April 2009
PODCAST:  Out of Trouble


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