AUSTIN (KXAN) - A fight in the hallway, talking back to a teacher or disrupting class may have landed students in the principal's office a few years ago. Today, it's landing kids in court.
"We had one example of a student who was throwing paper airplanes at his classroom ceiling and that was called disruption of class and he got a ticket and a court referral for that," said Deborah Fowler, deputy director of the public interest law center, Texas Appleseed .
The Austin-based center has studied the issue of student ticketing . There are no set guidelines statewide on what warrants a ticket from one school district to another. While some school resource officers use them sparingly, Texas Appleseed found some officers are writing tickets to more than 10 percent of students.
Students and their parents have to show up to either municipal or justice of the peace court and face fines, community service, or special classes if found guilty of the Class C misdemeanors.
"Once you place a youth into contact with the court system, they are significantly more likely to drop out of school, significantly more likely to have further involvement with the juvenile justice or adult criminal justice system," said Fowler.
Last year, Sarah, 13, a middle school student in Austin whose last name is not being used, got a ticket for disrupting class for spraying herself with perfume when classmates said she smelled bad. In May, the case was dismissed before it went to a jury.
The Austin Independent School District has its own police department. Two officers are assigned to each high school campus, and one is assigned to every middle school campus.
"Every effort is made to issue a citation as a last resort," said AISD Police Capt. Eric Mendez. "We look for other methods to curb discipline."
After noticing enforcement was not equal on every campus, AISD police met with principals in 2006 to iron out a policy they felt was fair for all students.
Now, before a ticket is issued, Mendez said officers talk to principals to figure out what is in a student's best interest.
Texas lawmakers passed two bills last legislative session dealing with student ticketing. Officers can no longer write tickets to students younger than seventh grade. Juvenile records will also be sealed if students do everything the court tells them do so they can get a job and go onto college.
Another bill authored by Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, that aimed to wipe out student ticketing altogether failed.
Judge Jeanne Meurer, who's been hearing juvenile cases in Travis County for the last 25 years, said ticketing isn't doing the trick.
"Kids don't earn money. They don't have any sense that means anything. They're probably going to give it to their parents, which is why then they get arrested at the age of 17," said Meurer.
A new study , linking school disciplinary records of nearly a million Texas students with their juvenile justice records, has also caught the federal government's attention. More than 60 percent of the public school students were either suspended or expelled in middle school or high school, and were twice as likely to enter juvenile justice system the following year.
Meurer recently started working with the Travis County district attorney to come up with a different approach that does not involve treating misbehavior in school as a crime.
"I do feel we overall are doing something that is losing these kids," said Meurer. "And that's a failure because they're very talented."
Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg heads to court this week as a defendant in a civil trial that could oust her from office.
Late Saturday night into early Sunday morning, a light band of freezing drizzle traversed the I-35 corridor eastward. With sub-freezing temperatures, even the light precipitation created major problems.
A 10-year-old was killed while standing outside a vehicle after the child's family was involved in a fender bender, DPS said.
Austin Police confirm they have located an 82-year-old women who went missing last night.
APD is responding to a 25 vehicle accident near the 5400 block of Ed Bluestein near Thurgood Ave.
A man is dead after being hit by several vehicles in the eastbound lane of Highway 71 Saturday night.