Defending Youth in Schools

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Our Mission

The ACLU of Texas Youth Rights Campaign seeks to end the policies and practices that undermine the futures of Texas children. We will work to ensure equality and dignity for all school-age Texans.

What We’re Going To Do

  •  Seal the School-to-Prison Pipeline

The school-to-prison pipeline is a disturbing “disciplinary” system that funnels children out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Many of these children have learning disabilities or histories of poverty, abuse or neglect, and would benefit from additional educational and counseling services. Instead, they are isolated, punished and pushed out. Punitive laws have criminalized minor infractions of school rules, while high-stakes testing programs encourage educators to push out low-performing students to improve their schools’ overall test scores. Students of color and those with special needs are especially vulnerable to push-out practices and the discriminatory application of discipline. We’ll promote policies to ensure that children are educated, not incarcerated.

  • End the Use of Solitary Confinement of Children in Texas Prisons and Jails

Children certified to stand trial as adults are sometimes held in solitary confinement before they even have their day in court. Many are found innocent, yet have spent a year or more of their young lives in isolation because they may not be housed with adults nor with other juveniles in detention. These conditions may continue until a juvenile turns 17 years old. Solitary confinement is inhumane treatment that leads to severe psychological distress and damage in adults; it is unconscionable that we subject children to this abuse. In addition to suffering extreme mental anguish, these children are also denied the opportunity to participate in religious services and school, and our counties waste scarce tax dollars on costly segregation schemes. We’ll promote policies designed to end this inhumane, counterproductive, and costly policy.

  • Ensure Equality and Dignity for All Students in Texas Schools

Whether at the hands of peers, teachers, or administrators, countless Texas children face bullying, harassment, and discrimination as a result of their actual or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation. Bullied children feel ostracized and fearful. In some cases, this fear and isolation has led children to commit suicide. We’ll promote policies that ensure all children are treated equally, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation, and hold school officials accountable when they fail to protect students.

Click to read the campaign summary (PDF) »

Tell Your Story

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A Student’s Perspective

Nothing helps us make our case for better school policies like you, and the stories of what you experience day-in day-out.

  • Does your school feel like a pipeline into the juvenile and criminal justice systems? Is discipline emphasized more than education?
  • Or can you talk about a positive change that’s made a difference in the climate of your school or the behavior of other students?

Send us your video testimony.

You can record a 1- or 2-minute video of you telling your story and upload it to youtube. Then us our Tell Your Story page to send the link. Please provide your name, age, contact information, and school as well. If you prefer not to use youtube, you can upload your file to, then email us the link.

You can also write your story and send it to

You could see your story on our website.

“From eating candy in class to speaking out to teachers or even just being under suspicion of transgression, children have been suspended not only to in-school suspension, but to the inevitable pipeline to prison that includes ALC, Gardner Bets, and TYC.” – Gabi Padilla, Austin student activist