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New juvenile bill gets mixed reactions

By Victoria Advocate
June 13, 2011 at 1:13 a.m.


With HB 1907 just one signature away from becoming a state law, Crossroads residents continue to have mixed feelings about it.

The legislation, which is awaiting Gov. Rick Perry's signature, replaces the word "may" with the word "shall," which now mandates that school superintendents shall provide teachers with detailed information about students' criminal histories.

"I understand teachers wanting to know if they have someone who is prone to violence or in possession of weapons in the classroom," said County Court-At-Law No. 1 Judge Laura Weiser. "But we want to give kids the same thing we give adults - the presumption of innocence."

The bill would allow teachers to be informed about all juvenile criminal activity including deferred adjudication probation, as well as detentions and arrests before convictions have occurred, said Weiser.

Weiser said the added responsibility of mandating superintendents and law enforcement to keep teachers informed of each and every one of students' criminal infractions is sure to be taxing.

"It is going to be a lot for those agencies to handle," she said.

Pama Hencerling, the chief juvenile probation officer for the Victoria and Goliad Counties Juvenile Services Departments, said providing teachers with details of students criminal backgrounds could also potentially affect student-teacher relationships.

"I know teachers want to know who is sitting in their classrooms for safety reasons," said Hencerling. "But there's always the human factor in there of how the teacher will treat the child knowing every detail of the child's criminal history.

She continued, "I'm not sure giving everything to everybody is the answer."

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