Earlier this month, the Signal reported on Texas Civil Rights Project disciplinary data highlighting Pasadena Independent School District’s alarming numbers on discipline and over-policing.
The report by TCRP highlighted the number of arrests, suspensions, expulsion, and restraints in the district between 2018-2021. While Black students are only 7.5 percent of the overall student body, TCRP’s report found that Black students were arrested, suspended, and restrained at higher rates than white students.
In response, PISD said TCRP’s numbers on discipline and policing were misinterpreted because of variables left out of the data.
“When Pasadena ISD’s discipline data is examined against other districts with similar population sizes, racial demographics, location, and percentage of economically disadvantaged students, Pasadena ISD’s data corresponds with similarly-situated districts’ overall number of students disciplined, overall number of disciplinary incidents, and race-based assignment data,” the district said in press release. “Unfortunately, these similarities are not reflected in the information shared by TCRP.”
The district also said after running the numbers through the alternative Automated Reports Management System (ARMS) the data showed lower percentages of students arrested.
“Unfortunately, the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) report considers individuals being questioned as part of an investigation as being ‘detained’ and are coded as ‘arrested’ even if in the course of the investigation it is determined no criminal offense took place and students are released,” PISD Associate Superintendent Jose Saavendro said.
Additionally, the district said TCRP’s data of students restrained over the previous three years has decreased and called the numbers misleading. However, PISD response data didn’t acknowledge the COVIID-19 pandemic impact and the increase in remote student learning.
“Similarly, with respect to TCRP’s concerns about restraints, the data reported to TEA and provided to TCRP indicated the total number of restraints, not the total number of students who were restrained,” PISD said in a statement. “Further, student restraints vary significantly in intensity and duration. The overall appropriateness of a student restraint occurrence must be examined on a case-by-case basis due to the individual circumstances of the situation in question.”
And lastly, the district said they no longer follow the “Zero Tolerance” policy which is rooted in punitive punishment and has instead moved to restorative justice and Social Emotional Learning. Furthermore, the district said they are experiencing a culture shift.
“The District remains committed to maintaining open dialogue and reviewing our practices in response to concerns,” the district said. “Overall the District continues to place a large emphasis on keeping students at school, implementing social emotional learning and restorative practices as alternatives to punitive and exclusionary consequences. As always, Pasadena ISD is dedicated to meeting all of our student’s social and emotional needs while doing our best to provide a safe and supportive learning environment.”
Nevertheless, the Signal spoke with TCRP Legal Fellow Travis Fife who said the organization stands by their data and that the district’s data still points to a troubling pattern.
“The letter ultimately raises more questions than answers I think from every parent, teacher we have talked to and long-time Pasadena residents we’ve talked to and the school’s efforts to reform discipline haven’t worked,” Fife said. “It’s really misleading to say those decreases reflected an improvement in culture.”
At the same time, Fife said some PISD administrators and superintendents have acknowledged the troubling data and are in collaboration with TCRP for solutions.
“I think this conversation is going to be a long one between us, the folks who care about these issues, and the school board in terms of what they’re willing to really change and that is something that takes a really long time,” Fife said.
Kennedy is a recent graduate of the University of St.Thomas in Houston where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Celt Independent. Kennedy brings her experience of writing about social justice issues to the Texas Signal where she serves as our Political Reporter. She does everything from covering crime beats, Texas politics, and community activism. Kennedy is a passionate reporter, avid reader, coffee enthusiast, and loves to travel.