An afternoon dismissal pickup policy change at one Texas elementary school has a lot of parents rip-roaring mad. It forbids them from walking their own children home at the end of the school day. Breaking this rule can result in trespassing charges or truancy classes for mom and dad.
Bear Branch Elementary School Principal Holly Ray changed the afterschool pickup policy this year. In September, Houston’s KPRC 2 News (NBC) reported the new rule prohibited parents from walking to the Magnolia Independent School District campus to retrieve their own children. Parents cannot drive to the school, park their cars at the school, or go inside to get their children early. Their options are to send their children home by school bus or drive to the school and wait for their children in a very long pickup car line assembling for the 3:25 p.m. dismissal. A lot of parents are unhappy about the change. However, a school district spokesperson told KPRC 2 that the intent of the policy was to ensure the safety of the 639 students enrolled.
All these months later, parents remain in a uproar over the policy, especially those who live in the neighborhood and/or are close enough to walk to school. Parents like Wendy Jarman, who lives behind Bear Branch, expressed such frustration with the situation that she pulled her children out of the elementary school and placed them in private school. She spoke to Houston’s Fox 26 about the policy, saying about Ray: “She’s threatening to arrest people.”
Jarman insisted this happened to many parents. “They have been cited. They have been threatened, if they step one foot on school property, they will be arrested and charged with who knows what.”
Frank Young is one of those parents. Montgomery County Constables served him a trespass warning in September for being on “all school property of any kind,” according to a citation that made clear a repeat occurrence could result in criminal trespassing charges filed against him under Texas Penal Code Chapter 30.
Ironically, the Magnolia ISD Student Code of Conduct defines a “parent” as a person “having lawful control of the child.” Yet, Young told Fox 26 the district made no effort to negotiate a better policy and even hundreds of signatures on a petition made no difference to change the policy or the principal’s tactics.
Breitbart Texas spoke to community members and obtained a recent dismissal process reminder letter in which Ray threatened parents and guardians with truancy classes and even, doling out In-School Suspension (ISS), a punishment that elementary school-age children could potentially serve because their parents break the pickup rules.
Ray plucked the directive out of the district’s 2015-16 Student Handbook. It reads:
“When an elementary student is tardy to school and/or leaves early eight times as documented by the attendance office, the parent will be asked to attend a truancy class provided by the District. If the parent chooses not to attend the parenting class within two weeks, the child will be assigned one day of In-School suspension (ISS) or other options decided by the campus administration.”
This went into effect on March 30, according to Ray’s recent letter. She promised “consequences will be enforced” should a parent fail to comply with truancy rules listed in the district’s Student Code of Conduct, a handbook based on Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code, which addresses actions subject to disciplinary consequences. Also known as the school-to-prison pipeline, these zero tolerance polices often derail underage lives by putting them in contact with the juvenile justice system.
In the letter, Ray maintained the same position as in September – that the dismissal policy change was made “out of concern for student safety.” She insisted that parents who walk to school at the end of the day “…are hindering the staff’s ability to be accountable for all students’ safety.”
According to Fox 26, the school district fully supported Ray, reiterating the goal is a safe dismissal process.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.