A Lufkin woman and her son are praising a new Texas law which prevents school police officers from issuing misdemeanor citations to students. It's in answer to a growing number of criminal charges being filed against children.
Marjorie Rollins-Holmon didn't realize how serious the issue was until her son received a 'ticket' at a school in Bryan. That's when the concerned parent became an advocate for change.
The favorites on Rollins-Holmon's computer include links to national news stories. They're about a ticket her 12 year old son received in 2010 for a fight with a classmate in a Bryan Middle School.
‘The New York Times,' PBS, and the Advocacy Group, Texas Appleseed used the school yard scuffle to establish a national issue. School violations that once required only a trip to the principal's office were being handled in adult court.
"The child was labeled from right there," Rollins-Holmon said.
Rollins-Holmon's son was in the system facing probation, a possible record into adult hood, and expensive court costs. She stated it this way.
"To be used as a cash cow," Rollins-Holmon said.
This year Rollins-Holmon's case was featured in a joint complaint that the Texas Appleseed and the Brazos County Chapter of the NAACP filed with the Federal Education Department's office for civil rights. Extensive research showed municipal courts frequently prosecute student tickets.
"Over 300,000 tickets per year on students throughout the Texas area," Rollins-Holmon said.
Today Rollins-Holmon has praise for a new Texas law prohibiting school police from issuing misdemeanor citations.
Police still have the ability to seek criminal action. They can issue complaints instead of citations.
Children's advocates anticipate the law will cut the number of citations in half, but not completely solve the problem.
"Someone needs to be the watchdog to find out what type of tickets are being sent to the DA," Rollins-Holmon said.
So when Rollins-Holmon's family was transferred to Lufkin the first resource she hit was Texas Appleseed's "School to Prison" Research, a site she recommends for all parents.
"This is information on ticketing and arrest data update," Rollins-Holmon said.
Rollins-Holmon found tickets issued by LISD, but so far, "I never faced a problem with the Lufkin school district and my son really likes Lufkin.
Advocates for change say the goal is for school police officers to provide security and leave discipline to principals and most of all parents.