School Safety Law Toolkit

Senate Bill 393

Added a new subchapter to the Texas Education Code, Chapter 37 (TEC . 37.144) related to criminal procedures related to issuing citations, sanctions, and prosecuting students for certain offenses. It is important to first define relevant terms that are used throughout this bill. A child is defined as being at least 10 and younger than 17 years of age, and enrolled as a student. A school offense is defined as an offense committed by a student enrolled in a public school that is a Class C misdemeanor other than a traffic offense committed on property under the control and jurisdiction of a school district (§37.141(2)). SB 393 includes several components. First, in the event there is a conflict of law, SB 393 overrules SB 1114 as applied to a school offense allegedly committed by a child. While an officer may take a child into custody under §52.01, Family Code, the officer may not issue a citation to a student who allegedly commits a school offense.

Furthermore, TEC §37.144 allows for the development of graduated sanctions for certain school offenses if the district commissions peace officers. This process allows a student to complete alternative sanctions (e.g., complete community service or receive tutoring) rather than pay court-related costs. These graduated sanctions are required to be placed on the child before a complaint may be filed. The graduated sanctions system must require (1) a warning letter issued to the child and the child’s guardians, (2) a behavior contract specifying the behavior that is required or prohibited from the child, (3) the completion of school-based community services by the child, and (4) the referral to counseling, community-based services, or other in-school or out-of-school services that may address the child’s behavior. If the child fails to adhere to the graduated sanctions, the school may file a complaint with a criminal court. The complaint must be sworn to by a witness to the behavior in question. A school employee must attach a statement to the complaint detailing if the child is eligible for, or receives, special services and the graduated sanctions mentioned above. Additionally, certain courts, probation departments, or school districts may employ a case manager for at risk children. The case managers will assist the court in administering the juvenile docket. Furthermore, the case managers may provide prevention services for at-risk children as well as intervention services to children engaged in misconduct prior to charges being filed.

See section in the Texas Education Code:

TEC 37.144 Graduated sanctions for certain school offenses.