Pflugerville ISD discusses disparity between number of black children being charged with assault

Meme Styles says last year she got a call from her 12-year-old son's school saying he could possibly face assault charges for an incident, but soon found out it was an accident.

"A little girl fell over, bumped her head they said that she was hurt and they basically blamed my son for that," Styles said. "Come to find out it was an accident but had that been a different pathway he could have easily been charged with assault is what I was told. When I hear stuff like that I understand that there's probably a bigger problem than just my kid."

That's when the Texas group called MEASURE got involved. MEASURE is a local data driven non-profit that works to advocate for communities. According to data obtained from Pflugerville ISD police, during the 2016 -2017 school year: 54 percent of assault charges filed in the Pflugerville school district were against black children. African-Americans only make up 16.8 percent of the district's student body.

"The wonderful thing about Pflugerville is that they are receptive to change," Styles says.

In response to the disparity, Pflugerville ISD police say district schools implemented additional student resources. For example, if a child was having a bad day, one of those resources intervened in hopes of keeping a situation from escalating.

And in the 2017-2018 school year, the district drastically decreased the number of assault charges. However, the disproportionality among student ethnicity groups remained.

"So the problem is many parents like me don't know what to do," Styles said. "We have no idea what to do if our child is faced with a charge. I'm hoping parents can walk away with tangible resources if they are faced with such charge." 

On Saturday night at the Pflugerville Library, MEASURE hosted a community discussion to talk about a solution to the disproportionality. The superintendent of the district, Douglas Killian, was there and says sometimes talking about race can be taboo. But in order to see real change, he was open to hearing ideas of how his department can help.

"We need to be more purposeful when we have conversations in our classrooms," he said. "We shy away from racial issues and we wait until there's an issue to start talking about this. That's not the way to do it effectively I think the way to do it is inside a classroom where kids can sit in a circle and relate to each other and tell their stories and some of the bigotry in our nation can be tackled in an environment where there's not the emotional charge." 

People were able to vote for solutions through a QR code. The majority of the 70 folks that attended say the answer is having more cultural teaching tools and tackling racism amongst students and resources.