Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Should teachers know students have criminal backgrounds?

Originally posted 06/16/2011 on lubbockonline.com

Megan Ryan of the Houston Chronicle reports that a bill requiring teachers to be informed when a student has a criminal history is sitting on Gov. Perry's desk waiting to be signed. The goal is greater safety for teachers and for other students. I'm torn on this one. Juveniles are generally protected from exposure because there are a lot of crazy, dangerous and even violent things done by minors who straighten up and become model citizens. When you know someone has a history, there is a tendency to treat them different because of that history. So keeping the students criminal history secret makes it possible for them to be treated like any other kid instead of as a menace to society. But if the student has a violent history, don't the teachers have a right, even a need, to know so they can better protect themselves and the other students? Texas State Teachers Association spokesman Clay Robinson believes they do and that the information will make it possible for teachers to avoid dangerous situations: "If the kid needed help after class, you could call a security guard to stay with you or stand out in the hall," he said. "If you were walking to your car and you saw the kid lurking about, you might want to ask a security guard or another teacher to walk you to the car." How many students with criminal backgrounds get in altercations with school staff? How does that number compare with the number of students without criminal backgrounds that get in altercations with school staff? Is there enough difference in the numbers to warrant exposing students to fear and suspicion from teachers?