Monday, February 26, 2007

Texas: I Moved Here?

So five years ago my wife left New York for Texas. Left me as well. The issue I had with that, other then the fact that I thought we had this great marriage, was that she also left our two boys with me and took our daughter with her. In her Amazon basin upbringing mentality that was okay: The woman took the girl, left the boys with the man. What's the problem?
None, except that that's not how it works in my working class Irish-American mindset. You want to quit the family, you quit the family. But you don't get to take one of my children along with you.
That said, when she didn't return after a couple of months my boys told me that if we wanted to get Madeleina back we'd have to move to Texas. So we did, and sure enough, mom had no problem letting Madeleina live with us so long as we were near Fort Worth, where she'd settled to be near her three sisters, also from the Amazon.
It's complicated but in that matriarchial culture, that's the most important thing: That the women live near one another. Going back three generations, to indigenous life, the sisters would likely all be wives of the same man.
That's another story, although an interesting one. Today I just want to note something about Texas that I find insane but seem to be taken for granted by the locals. Maybe thats because I'm from New York where most minor infractions are overlooked by most cops most of the time. Here in Texas it's a different story.
For instance: My son Marco, 18-years-old and a senior at the local high, has been late to school 11 times since August 17. Some of that's just being a teenager, most of it relates to his mom and me being separated and her having a new baby and him living at her house recently and him having to help her out and get the baby to one of her sister's homes, or my home, after she's gone to work and before he goes to school. No big deal. When he's late he's averaging less than 10 minutes late. So all told, in the last seven months he's been late less than two hours, and most of that comes from helping his mom or me.
Nonetheless, Texas law proscribes him having a 3rd degree misdemeanor charged against him. So he and I received notices that we had a Feb. 26 court date. So we went. The local judge, Judge X, is a former policeman who for four years worked undercover with the local multi-county narcotics squad. He's also an actor, and when he enters the courtroom he announces as much. "I'm in a new show over in so and so, so forgive my long hair."
And then he begins to talk to the roomful of kids and parents--all of whom are there because of lateness or absences from school--about how he used to be in the Narc squad. "I used to cut school. My parents would leave me off at the front door and I was the first one out the back. And I hung out with a crowd that did things, bad things. You should know the things I used to do. I should have been dead or in jail before I was 18, so don't think you've done anything I didn't used to do..."
He goes on a while, proud of himself. I sit there thinking that I too used to do those things. I too was lucky that I didn't wind up in jail or dead. We all are. But we all didn't become narcs and turn around and spend years trying to land our former friends in jail. Or land people who did what our friends did in jail. We didn't become judges and tell kids we were taking their driver's licenses away because they were late for school one day more than was allowed this year. We didn't threaten 12 and 13 year old school kids' parents with $500 dollar fines--I was fined $190 last year by the same judge--or order random drug tests on youngsters--as he did today, threatening to take kids from their parents if cocaine or meth was found in their systems.
And then, we didn't all charge each parent a $78 dollar court cost on top of the fines. More than 30 kids were called today for the 1:30 PM docket. That's $2,340 in court costs for an hour and a half court time. Add that much again in fines (we were lucky to get away with a $50 fine this time) and that sub-courthouse is bringing in $5,000 every Monday at Truancy court. Plus the costs of the drug tests. That's just for kids being late to school, most of whom, like my son Marco, have quite legitimate family obligations that are causing their lateness or absences.
Can you imagine: unprovoked drug tests handed out by a local truancy judge at will; court costs for truancy notices so high that more than pay for the entire courthouse monthly, fines that assure the county can hold gala dinners and buy unmarked police cars so that the local constabulatory can hand out more fines.
Personally, I don't think the drug test thing is legal, and I'm not sure the law on being late is legal. The rest is just immoral. And that it's being meted out by this handsome actor who brags on all the bad things he got away with that the rest of the world will not get away with is simply cause for nausea.
But this is Texas. Sometimes it's hard to believe I moved here.
This is not the America I was brought up to believe in.

1 comment:

sandra said...

The methodology for the “Diversion Agreement” as it affected my son and I in the charges of failure to attend school, In the justice Court, Precinct 8, position2 Cause No. CR82C0144252 After becoming aware of my son’s truant behavior, and determining the cause, and trying continually to remedy the situation in conjunction with my son’s principal, we finally had our initial day in court. Upon entering the courtroom, we were told to complete a form and produce identification. Then the court played a video in both English and Spanish, explaining the process minimally. My son and are were the 1st defendants called. We approached the table that had called us, and sat down. There were four individuals at the table, none of which identified or introduced themselves to my son or myself. I understand my son and I were the defendants in the action, but as it was a pretrial. Cara Hernandez, I assume as the diversion agreement was stamped with her name, immediately started questioning my son in a tone similar to the actions and demeanor of prosecuting attorney Kelly Siegler, but again without the introduction. My son answered her questions, but when Mrs. Hernandez summed up her interpretation of what my son had said, she repeatedly said my son was blaming his truant behavior on everyone else. Upon direct questioning as to why he had been repeatedly absent, my son said he had an issue with a teacher, even brought up a verbal attack from the teacher directed at my son and other students. Mrs. Hernandez in her questioning of my son stated, it looks as if you fell off the planet, but it seems your back. Mrs Hernandez also stated that she hated to put children like my son in jail as he had no prior history, but kids like him almost always end up in jail, where as students that are always in court are smart enough to do just enough to stay out of jail. A man at the table handed me a piece of paper and requested I get Mike in counseling, I responded that Mike is already being seen by a counselor. He then asks if Mike had ever had a psychological assessment. I answered, “Not that I’m aware of.” He explained his name and number was written on the paper, and requested that I have a psychological assessment of my son done at Depelchin Children’s center. I contacted Depechin, to schedule a psychological assessment, explaining it had been court ordered thru a diversion agreement at my son’s court hearing in regards to truancy. The representative over the phone, seemed a little perplexed, she questioned, what sort of psychological assessment do you need? The paper I had been given was dated 9/7/06 from a web page that is no longer available, In spite of the message I left for Raul Gaona, yesterday after my conversation with the Depelchin representative, I have not received a return call. The Depelchin representative did volunteer that the Doctors used by Depelchin for psychological assessments were not accredited with any insurance. I contacted my sons’ therapist that works in conjunction with a licensed Psychiatrist, I explained what the court had ordered, a psychological assessment. The therapist asked what kind, rudimentary psychological assessment, personality psychological assessment, projection psychological assessment, or intelligence psychological assessment? After I explained it only said psychological assessment, my sons therapist explained, it would not be covered by insurance unless it was medically necessary. He also concluded if it became medically necessary in the course of therapy, it would be a covered testing. In the signed diversion agreement, we agreed to continue therapy, so I don’t understand the necessity of having a psychological assessment that has yet to be deemed a medical necessity. Obviously in following the court order of continued therapy, one would follow the recommendations of a mental health authority. My question to Raul Gaona would be in you minimal participation in the diversion agreement yesterday, do you think your question as to weather or not I had insurance indicated to me, along with the paper with hand written…No Contract No Evolv- Insurance, Medicaid, chips…that the psychological assessment would be covered to the extent my insurance allowed ? I am appalled by the actions and manipulation of words used by Cara Hernandez, and intentional mis-information indicated by Mr. Gaona. In the prosecutions discussion of perhaps getting a mentor, to mentor my child in how to cross the intersection of Bay Area Blvd(4 lanes of traffic), and Fm 528(5lanes), 15 minutes before sunrise, to get too tutorials(with an abusive teacher)on time, the prosecutor and all participants at the table should be mentored on the common courtesy of introducing oneself before questioning them or listening to their questioning.

To the assumed School district representative, had you recently been in contact with the principal at my son’s school perhaps you would have been aware of the mitigating circumstances regarding my son’s absences. The prosecutor implied my son had made up the conflict between the teacher and my son, as a representative of the school district, I would expect at least some acknowledgment of the said issue. The principal at my son’s school has obviously concluded, there was a real or perceived issue between my son and the teacher, as her actions allowing my child to remain in the student center during that teacher’s period, and has finally allowed my son to transfer out of that teacher’s class. Also, I do not understand which absences were used to charge my son with failure to attend school, as none accompanied the complaint. Under Section 25.0951 of the Texas Education Code If the school district chooses to file the charge of “failure to attend school” against the student, it must do so within ten (10) school days of the student’s 10th absence. The court must dismiss charges that are not filed within 10 school days of the student’s 10th absence.