Home News Center Texas Advocates Curb School Pushout of Youth Experiencing Homelessness

Texas Advocates Curb School Pushout of Youth Experiencing Homelessness

June 27, 2019
Courtney M. McSwain



In 2017, NJJN Member Texas Appleseed released its report
, “Young, Alone and Homeless in the Lone Star State,” that demonstrated the disproportionate nature of out-of-school suspensions on youth experiencing homelessness.  

According to the report:  

Unaccompanied students who are homeless in Texas are 2.5 times more likely to be suspended from school and ten times more likely to drop out of school, placing them at greater risk of justice involvement and being funneled into the school-to-prison pipelineUncovering these alarming statistics served as the impetus for Texas Appleseed’s legislative push this year to curb out-of-school suspensions and school pushout for these youth, thus lowering their risk for being involved in the justice system. Just this month, multiple bills advancing this effort were signed by the Texas Governor, including:   

  • HB 692  Prohibits schools from punishing youth experiencing homelessness with out-of-school suspension (with some exceptions);  

  • HB 811  Adds foster care or homelessness to the list of mitigating factors that school administrators must consider when determining disciplinary actions for students; and  

  • HB123 – Waves the fees associated with obtaining State identification for youth who are experiencing homelessness or are in foster care, which helps to make it easier to access essential services like housing.  

“We recognize that the school-to-prison pipeline can start early and we’re trying to stop unnecessary suspensions that are harming kids and aren’t doing anything to address the root causes of why youth may be exhibiting a certain behavior,” says Brett Merfish, Director of Youth Justice at Texas Appleseed.  

In Texas, school suspension is discretionary, and administrators can find other ways to address behaviors that may be signs of other traumas youth are experiencing in their lives, such as the instability of homelessness. “School is often a refuge – the only place homeless youth feel safe or have access to food; pushing them out of school is just pushing them back on the streets,” Merfish notes.   

Fortunately, policymakers were receptive to the package of bills keeping homeless youth in school, with some compromises. Strong coalition partnership also helped. Texas CASA supported HB 811, while the Texas Network of Youth Services and the Texas Public Policy Foundation testified in favor of HB 692.  

Moving forward, Texas Appleseed plans to continue advocating on behalf of youth experiencing homelessness, with the primary goal of securing funding to serve their needs specifically.  

***  

For more information on Texas Appleseed, visit them online or on Facebook and Twitter 

<- Go Back