Did discipline go too far?

March 10, 2009 4:46:10 PM PDT
A high school honor student was suspended and disciplined after police found a sword in her car. But the sword wasn't even hers and she still got in trouble. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Now, the incident and several others like it could be what one legislator needs to change a statewide law.

The Ft. Bend ISD student says she was persecuted without reason after a school district police officer found that sword in her car. She says she had never even touched it before and certainly had no plans of using it.

One day last November, Amy Deschenes, 17, drove to Bush High School the car which she shared with her step-brother. She had no idea the sword, which he left in plain view, would cause her so much trouble.

"My brother's stuff was in my car," she said. "I don't know why I should be punished for that."

But she was. Under its student code of conduct, Ft. Bend ISD has a "zero tolerance" stance on weapons on campus. The district forced her into an alternative education program at her high school for seven weeks.

"My initial first reaction was, 'Why are you doing this to my daughter? Why are you ruining her life?'" said Paul Deschenes, Amy's father.

Amy is a member of the National Honor Society. She's president of her school's orchestra and wants to one day be a chemical engineer. She has no history of disciplinary problems.

Her case caught the attention of State Representative Dora Olivo, who's filed House Bill 171 this session. It would require educators to now consider, among other things, "intent or lack of intent" in such situations.

"What this bill is about is tightening it up and telling schools you need to consider other mitigating factors before you send the kid to a disciplinary school," said Olivo.

The group "Texas Zero Tolerance" petitioned legislators to do away with zero tolerance policies last legislative session.

"You can't legislate common sense," said Fred Hink with Texas Zero Tolerance.

Amy's father says common sense is what's missing in so many cases, like his daughter's. She just hopes no one else has to endure all she has.

"I think it's really important because I don't want this to happen to other people. It's a really hard, unhappy thing and it's not fair," said Amy.

Fort Bend ISD refused to answer our specific questions either on or off camera, only issuing a statement that says, "The district does not comment about student disciplinary issues related to a particular student."

Representative Olivo has invited Des chenes to testify next week before the House education committee.

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