East Texas educators want access to troubled students' criminal histories

Mary Ann Whiteker is the Hudson ISD Superintendent.
Mary Ann Whiteker is the Hudson ISD Superintendent.
Sarah Austin is a retired fourth grade teacher.
Sarah Austin is a retired fourth grade teacher.

ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - If teachers really knew the students sitting in their classrooms, Hudson Superintendent Mary Ann Whiteker said her district would be better off.

"I think teachers have a right to know as much as they can about the child so they can provide the services that are needed," said Whiteker.

Texas already gives some background information about students.

A proposed law would now turn over details of crimes and arrests that most states keep confidential.

Some educators say if teachers had access to that more detailed information it would be used to help rather than to hurt.

"Our teachers would never ever treat one of the students differently in the class, but they need to be aware of the problems the child has and other circumstances in that child's life," said Whiteker.

Retired teacher Sarah Austin said it could be very helpful, but there's a fine line.

"You don't want to color the student's individual personality with past information that may no longer be so prevalent, but you do need to know some of that to be able to help them," said Austin.

The measure was spurred by the fatal stabbing of a John Tyler teacher in 2009.

Juvenile experts complain the new law could make it harder for young offenders to lead a normal life after release.  Others insist teachers are in too much danger.

"Well you never know what kind of student you're going to have in your class," said Sue Shuffield.

"It's according to what kind of trouble he was causing," said Jeannie Lambert. "Was he beating up on kids, was he being violent to other kids?"

The bill has already passed the legislature. It's just waiting on Gov. Rick Perry's okay.

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