Helping Kids with Incarcerated Parents

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Incarcerated parentsBy Senator Borris Miles

There were many transformative criminal justice reform bills lawmakers filed and pushed this session. Bail reform, the Sandra Bland Act, the TDCJ Independent Ombudsman and Raise the Age are some of the few pieces of legislation that were proposed, but never had a chance with Republicans in charge. But, one bill was able to get out, I authored Senate Bill 1746, which will help kids with incarcerated parents stay on track to graduate from high school.

According to a research study conducted by the University of Texas at San Antonio, about one in twenty-eight children has a parent in prison. Students with incarcerated parents are at a much higher risk of suffering through academic difficulties. Also, these students are at risk of developmental challenges such as poor diet and sleep; some students have difficulty in staying focused in school. This, in turn, puts them at risk of dropping out of school.

Education Code requires school districts to provide accelerated instruction to students who are at-risk of dropping out of school. Currently, the TEA classifies a student being at-risk from a list of 13 indicators. Indicators on the list include the student being homeless, pregnant or a parent or if the student has a limited English proficiency.

The governor signed SB 1746, which adds students with incarcerated parents or guardians to the list of at-risk indicators. Now, these students will qualify for certain benefits other at-risk students currently receive which will help them graduate from high school. These benefits include programs like supportive guidance, enrichment activities, academic enhancement and support services, college and career awareness, and much more.

There are organizations that have stepped up to offer intervention services and programs to help at-risk youth. I am proud to do my part by passing this legislation to help kids in our community and Texas. The school to prison pipeline disproportionately targets minority students from our neighborhoods. It introduces them to the criminal justice system at a very young age, and once in, it’s hard to get out. This bill will not dismantle the pipeline, but it removes a path to it. This bill will give our kids the help they need to graduate from high school and get on a path to success.

This article originally appeared in African American News & Issues.

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