School Climate & Safety

The Next Classroom Data Set: Student Criminal Records?

By Liana Loewus — June 14, 2011 1 min read
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Texas is considering a law that would give teachers access to students’ detailed criminal histories, which are currently confidential in most states, reports the Associated Press. The legislation, awaiting Governor Rick Perry’s signature, was prompted by the 2009 death of a special education teacher who was stabbed by his 16-year-old student in Tyler, Texas.

The measure would require law enforcement to provide superintendents with “all pertinent details” of parolees’ offenses, and superintendents to inform teachers. In addition, teachers would receive written arrest notifications. According to Sue Burrell, an attorney with the San Francisco-based Youth Law Center, “this is a real departure from traditional juvenile court law.”

Rep. Jerry Madden (R) of Plano, Texas, who sponsored the legislations, said, “The bottom line is protecting teachers.” Texas teacher groups support the measure as well, according to the AP. “We feel like we can deal with things when we’re in the know,” said Grace Mueller, a middle school teacher and officer with the Texas Classroom Teachers Association. “When you’re blindsided, that’s when you get fearful or put yourself or someone else in harm’s way.”

But juvenile justice advocates fear it will cause bias against these students—even those arrested students whose records are later cleared—and will cause schools to put students who have committed crimes directly into alternative education programs. “A kid walks into a classroom where the teacher knows all the details of the offense, the teacher would have to be super-human to be open-minded,” said Lawrence Wojcik, a Chicago attorney who works on juvenile justice issues.

As a teacher, would you want to know the details of a student’s criminal record? Would this information help you prepare for potential problems or would it only serve to color your perception of the student?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.