Building Walls Between Schools and the Justice System District Profile: Aldine ISD (Texas)

Type: Case Study
Topics: Equity, Social Emotional Learning

May 10, 2023

Building Walls Between School and Justice System: Aldine ISD
How one district lowered the number of disciplinary referrals with a focus on SEL, mental health and culture.

Dr. LaTonya Goffney came to Aldine Independent School District (ISD) in 2018. Upon arrival she was greeted by an article in the ‘Houston Chronicle’ that named the district the most dangerous in Houston. This would have been a daunting start for many, but Dr. Goffney had done her research and knew what she was getting into in her new district. Instead of running for the hills, she embarked on a year-long listening tour of the district, taking a hard look at the data, and building the team that launched a bold strategic plan in 2019.

Dr. Goffney’s listening tour uncovered many things, but achievement and discipline were the standouts: low academic achievement and a high number of discipline referrals.

At the end of the first year, the district launched the strategic plan with the following tenets:

  • prioritize achievement;
  • improve culture;
  • leadership development; and
  • family/community engagement.

There was also a focus on equity in achievement, especially for special education students, who were disproportionately Black.

District at a Glance

Located in Harris, Texas, Aldine ISD serves 67,130 students. Despite being categorized as a richly diverse district with vast opportunity, there are generational disadvantages regarding education attainment and economic status.

Poverty is the common denominator of all students across the district, regardless of color. The district’s FARM rate is greater than 90%, with most students receiving free meals. Utilization of free and reduced lunches suggests economic disadvantage among marginalized populations within the district.

Superintendent: Dr. LaTonya M. Goffney

Number of Students: 67,130

Demographics: 74.6% Hispanic; 21.4% African American; 1.6% White; 1.01% Asian; .12% American Indian; 1.01% Asian; 1.03% Two or more races; .17%  Pacific Islander

District Type: Urban/unincorporated

SRO in District: No, district has its own police department.

Additional Resources

With funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, AASA profiled five school districts that are building walls between schools and the justice system, engaging in restorative practices, working to eliminate bias and disproportionality, and providing all children with fair and equitable access to high-quality opportunities.

AASA sought districts that worked intentionally to reduced school-related juvenile justice interactions where the superintendent and school system played a key role in changes to limit youth interaction with law enforcement, school-based arrests, and juvenile justice.

Each district profiled noted the impact that Covid-19 had on their efforts. While time out of school due to the pandemic posed challenges for everyone, it also provided districts with opportunities to make bold moves, such as fully embracing Social, Emotional Learning (SEL) and eliminating SRO contracts.

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