Houston Community Demands Changes to HISD Code of Conduct

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The Texas Civil Rights Project, the Organizing Network for Education Houston and other members of the community are sounding the alarm over the policy changes they want in the Houston Independent School District Code of Conduct.

Both organizations expect the board to adopt the 2022-2023 student code of conduct without community involvement or clarity. Nonetheless, there are three specific changes the organizations are asking the district to include – stop using zip ties and pepper spray on students, stop arresting students for nonviolent offenses, and stop interrogating students. students without a parent/guardian.

According to HISD records, black students account for 41% of the district’s Alternative Disciplinary Education Program (DAEP) referrals and 50% of all out-of-school suspensions, though they make up only 22% of the overall student population.

“The data from the district is clear – school policing has a disproportionate impact on black students, ultimately resulting in potentially disastrous lifelong consequences,” said Travis Fife, Equal Justice Works Fellow for the Criminal Injustice program. of the Texas Civil Rights Project.

“School policing is not the solution to correcting student behavior, but rather an obstacle to what should be a safe environment for children to learn, grow and thrive. We need common sense changes to the code of conduct that ensure that children – regardless of race – will be treated as children.

Houston students, educators and community members said these changes could create a safer learning space for all parties to reduce the school-to-jail pipeline and move away from negative impacts.

“What support systems can we put in place so that a student doesn’t even end up in this type of disciplinary problem,” said Alexis Gage, HISD high school biology teacher and ONE Houston organizer. “We want to find alternatives, things like restorative justice. How can we make amends if they did something? It makes no sense to stop a student for answering or being on the phone. »

According to HISD records, black students also account for 51% of campus arrests. Both organizations will testify at the HISD board meeting on August 4 at 6 p.m. to demand changes.

“We have partnered with ONE Houston to demand reforms to HISD’s Code of Conduct, but time and time again HISD has failed to act in the best interest of the community and its students,” Fife said.

Notably, HISD is the largest school district in the state and the eighth largest in the United States.

Gage said these changes will ensure all students have the opportunity to reach their full potential in a safe and equitable learning environment.

“My students are very aware of these systems and the inequities at play that occur outside of school and how they spill over inside of school,” Gage said. “So I feel like these provisions are necessary because we tell our students they can be whatever they want to be, and these provisions ensure that we give them a system where they can be whatever they want to be. want, where they are protected, where they are lifted.”

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