Disclosing students' criminal past to schools

They're dubbed juvenile delinquents, teens involved in crimes which land them in the Cameron County Detention Center where director Tommy Ramirez implements programs to get them moving forward with their lives, just as he does at The Bridge in Harlingen.

It TMs a place where the teen criminals can redefine themselves.

Once they go back into their respective schools, they could be marked as troubled or dangerous if a proposed bill is passed by the state providing teachers with detailed information about the criminal histories of students in their classrooms.

Ramirez says there are pros and cons to the matter.

"Some kids with minor problems in the community will basically have their records exposed to everyone. They will come to school with a label and everyone would already have an opinion of them," said Ramirez.

Lourdes Cavazos is a teacher in Harlingen and doesn't believe an educator TMs focus should be on what harm a student may do because of their past.

I don't think all that information should be privy to the teacher.

It could set the stage for possibly stigmatizing the student and coming up with preconceived ideas of the student and that's not fair," said Cavazos.

There's an upside of sharing information, according to Ramirez, in fact, he has probation officers already in schools in Harlingen, San Benito and Brownsville monitoring teens that have been through their system.

Ramirez says their presence has made a difference in their attendance and overall behavior.

"They work very closely with the drop out program, counselors, principals and we all work as a team sharing information about the kids," said Ramirez.

Although his program works, Ramirez says other school districts throughout the state may not handle these teens TM criminal histories as discreetly and that could pose a problem when teachers have a negative perception of the child, just as Cavazos admits she would.

"The same way that you get very excited when you hear a brilliant over achiever is coming into your class and you set that bar high for him because you have all these preconceived notions about that child, you do the same when you hear something negative about a child," said Cavazos.

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

It was passed by the legislature last month, and awaits approval by Governor Rick Perry.