Houston Health Department spearheads cross-sector initiative to address school-to-prison pipeline, develop actionable policy and recommendations for school discipline reform

HOUSTON – The Houston Health Department brings its effort to address disparities children of color face in school and the criminal justice system to the courtroom of Harris County Justice of the Peace Jeremy Brown on Dec. 12.

The roundtable discussion is the latest in the Citywide Effort to Address Implicit Bias in School Discipline, a series of workgroup sessions to develop actionable policy and practice recommendations for school discipline reform by April 2020.

“As a child, I was taught that I have to work twice as hard to get the same as my white counterparts. I rejected that statement in my youth, but in hindsight, I understood that there are systematic barriers minority kids still have to overcome, and one of the main reasons is the implicit bias in our schools,” said Judge Brown. “This roundtable is a valuable tool to introduce the community to the issues concerning implicit bias and how we as a community can work to solve them.”

The Dec. 12 roundtable brings together more than 30 leaders from government entities, schools, non-profits and philanthropic organizations to discuss restorative justice practices and collaborative methods to combat the school-to-prison pipeline.

In 2018, schools made up 28% of all referrals to Harris County Juvenile Probation Department. Black students 10 years and older made up 39% of all on-campus referrals and make up 20% of the 10-17-year-old population. Hispanic students 10 years and older made up 45% of all on-campus referrals and make up 42% of the 10-17-year-old population.

“Houston should be a city where skin color and zip code do not determine the outcomes of our children’s lives,” said Stephen Williams, director of the Houston Health Department. “In Houston we count on our children to grow and help build the future of our city, but our children are also counting on us to do what we can to set them up for success. In order to get there, we must collectively address the inequities that exist in current school discipline practices and policies and focus on equitable solutions to keep our children on the right path.”

The Citywide Effort to Address Implicit Bias in School Discipline is a collaboration between the Houston Health Department’s My Brother’s Keeper Houston, Harris County Juvenile Probation Department, Mental Health America of Greater Houston’s Center for School Behavioral Health, and Leadership for Educational Equity.