A group of Texas parents are complaining to school officials that the zero-tolerance punishments for prom night consumption of alcohol are not strong enough.
Despite the potentially damaging and far-reaching effects of zero-tolerance punishments doled out to four students accused of drinking alcoholic beverages before their high school prom, several parents at one Texas high school want even stiffer consequences. The parents took their complaints to a local TV news station.
On April 16, a chartered party bus took nearly 40 Pleasanton High School students safely to their prom held at a San Antonio Hyatt hotel. Upon their arrival, administrators alleged several teens were intoxicated and called police, who charged four of them with underage drinking, a Class C misdemeanor. These students also got slapped with other penalties — mandated time at an alternative disciplinary campus, substance abuse counseling, and a choice between forced exercise or community service.
Yet, on April 25, San Antonio CBS affiliate KENS 5 reported they heard from several disgruntled Pleasanton high school parents, clamoring for harsher consequences. They insisted because the high school permitted these students to participate in school sports activities and San Antonio’s annual Fiesta Flambeau parade, it set a poor example for the rest of the student body.
However, a condition for the students to continue playing sports was the completion of three hours of substance abuse counseling and running 20 miles within 10 days or performing 20 hours of community service, said KENS 5. The students were also ordered to attend a disciplinary alternative education program (DAEP), the Pleasanton Express reported. The amount of time they must spend at the often off-campus facility is not known. Transportation is not necessarily provided to shuttle students to these behavioral education institutions intended to substitute for the regular classroom but instead, disrupt a youth’s education.
Despite these parents’ criticism, Pleasanton ISD Superintendent Matthew Mann emphasized administrators followed the district’s student code of conduct in determining punishments for the accused four underage revelers. The 2015-16 Pleasanton ISD Student Code of Conduct handbook lists mandatory DAEP placement for anyone who “uses, or is under the influence of alcohol, if the conduct is not punishable as a felony offense.”
Student code of conduct handbooks are in every Texas school district and are written in accordance with the state’s 1995 Safe Schools Act and Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code. Under the state’s zero-tolerance law, a first time juvenile offender can be fined up to $500, alcohol awareness class, eight to 40 hours of community service, and between 30 and 180 days loss of a driver’s license, according to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC). The state agency also lists graduated punitive measures in cases of repeat offenders who are minors.
One former area teacher, Jean Kendrick, told KENS 5 she thought the teens should have been suspended. She said: “I think they have to suffer embarrassing consequences before they stop doing such things.”
Still, for even first time offenders, DAEP and Class C misdemeanors become part of a student’s permanent school records and they may show up on student transcripts, the fallout of which can prove far more than embarrassing by damaging a student’s future. The resulting paper trail, if not sealed, often jeopardizes a student’s future college and career prospects.
School-to-Prison pipeline watchdog groups like Texas Appleseed advise parents to learn if that “disciplinary offense will become part of your student’s record—and if it is serious, whether your student will be ticketed, arrested and required to appear in court, where the incident could become part of a municipal court, justice court, or juvenile court record.”
Breitbart Texas reports on the school-to-prison pipeline, the result of unforgiving zero-tolerance disciplinary policies that criminalize student behavior, putting minors in contact with the juvenile justice system, often hampering and even derailing their futures and, in some cases, over alcoholic beverages.
In 2015, Breitbart Texas reported Kaufman ISD school officials barred high school senior Quintin Walker from attending his own graduation after campus police K-9 sniffed out an unopened beer can his mother forgot to remove from a cooler in the family truck the teen parked on campus. They even tried to send Walker to DAEP post-graduation. The teen was already accepted to college.
That same school district suspended 15 students for drinking alcohol placed in a limousine rented for the high school prom. The district hen sent the high school seniors to DAEP for 45 days. Those who displayed good behavior were allowed to go to their graduation ceremony.
In 2014, Livingston High School student Chaz Seale got suspended for three days when he accidentally packed a beer with his lunch when rushing to school. Once he realized Coors Lite sat in his lunch bag, he told his teacher. Livingston High School thanked him for his honesty by sending him to a DAEP school for the maximum 60 days even though Seale had no prior criminal record or history of trouble.
Meanwhile, at Pleasanton ISD, Mann emphasized: “Safety was our main concern for these students. Each student’s parents were contacted and each student was safe until the parents showed up. The important aspect is each student arrived home safely,” according to the Pleasanton newspaper. “There were no funerals to attend or hospitals to visit,” Mann reminded parents.
He added this incident may affect future proms, senior trips and dress codes. Previously, he told KENS 5 the district will add measures to educate students on the dangers of alcohol abuse and drunk driving.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.