Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Katy ISD: A Community of Learners, But Not Lovers

What is it about Texas and its punishment fetish? It’s true. Texas is a laughingstock for its extremism in punishment. Texas was the first state to carry out an execution after the Supreme Court lifted the ban in Gregg v. Georgia. Texas leads the country in capital punishment.

So why the surprise that, Shelby Sendelbach, a 12-year old 7th grader attending middle school in Katy ISD, was given a sentence of 4 months in an Alternative School for writing “I Love Alex” on the school’s gymnasium wall? “Alternative School” is where they put the real discipline cases. It can’t be called a “School” per se because there is no learning taking place there. Believe me, I know.

In deciding the punishment the district went along with the idea that putting graffiti on school property was a felonious offense, even though the Harris County DA was not going to press felony charges. Any felony, according to the district discipline plan was a Level 4 offense, akin to terrorism, sexual assault and arson.

Now, after getting some pretty bad press the district is backpedaling and we can expect a lighter sentence to be handed down. Shelby’s parents were “pushing to get the punishment reduced because they don't believe the district took into account her clean disciplinary record, lack of criminal intent and the fact that she has a learning disability.”


Shelby’s parents are pulling out all the stops. They left it last in the list, but now we know that Shelby is LD. Anyone who has worked in the field of education knows that having that tag on your school records makes the matter another affair altogether. The fact that they mention it in the press lets you know that this will be a no-holds-barred get down and dirty Texas-sized brawl. Being LD is by no means a get out of jail free card, although I’ve heard of it played that way. But it puts more of a burden on the district to prove that it has done everything it can to be as fair as possible.

And clearly, they haven’t.

Clearly they threw the book at the little girl.

It at first seems ironic that this matter comes to Katy. In researching this story I came across an old website that was put up by the Katy Zero Tolerance group that lobbied for passage of HB 603, passed unanimously in both houses of the 79th legislature.

I guess they had issues with this kind of thing before.

1 comment:

Van said...

LCISD did the very same thing the first year of the new high school out on 359. The student came into class, sat down at his desk and saw where the previous inhabitor had drawn the top half of a face in ink. Being an extremely talented and artistic young man, he finished the artwork with his pencil that was handy (he hadn't even opened his backpack). The teacher saw him doing this and he was accused of not only vandalizing and permanently damaging property (with an eraseable pencil), but drawing the part done in ink. Recall that I wrote he had not even opened his backpack where his ink pens were and every student there testified that he never used a pen. The admin went ballistic and would not back down. So consequently the young man's high school life was ruined and his mother, who was a teacher there, had a miserable time until she could find a new school district. The difference in the cases? The KISD parents could afford to contact the media because they weren't employees of the district and had money. So, where are the priorities? Ruining a good child's life and driving away an excellent teacher or the reverse of those two? Which is a school district supposed to do in your eyes with your money? A little mea culpa for all the right reasons is not such a bad thing. We ask it of our students all the time. Do as I say, not as I do.