Fort Worth will allow its teen curfew to lapse Feb. 13 in anticipation of state lawmakers banning the practice in Texas municipalities, city officials confirmed Friday.
The move comes after months of debate between council members over the controversial curfew ordinance, which mandates that anyone under 17 has to be home between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and midnight to 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Residents expressed concerns that the curfew further criminalizes children of color in Fort Worth after the city released data showing Black youth were disproportionately cited for violations.
“Thirty years of data demonstrates that the curfew ordinance does not achieve the outcomes we want,” District 6 council member Jared Williams said in a news release. “Instead, it places our children on a pathway to constant interaction with our criminal justice system and offers very little support for addressing their underlying issues and needs.”
State Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, introduced the bill, which would repeal the authority of political subdivisions, like Fort Worth, to adopt or enforce juvenile curfews. A similar bill was introduced by then-state Rep. Celia Israel in 2019, but ultimately didn’t make it to the governor’s desk.
Other cities, including Austin, Waco and San Antonio, have already repealed their curfew ordinances over the past several years, citing similar concerns about racial bias.
“I think a lot of city leaders, their initial reaction to anything that impacts local control might be negative,” Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker said. “But I didn’t necessarily have that reaction. As a good prudent policymaker for our city, I think it would be irresponsible to react by saying we always know better. I think it’s actually responsible to watch this debate transpire at the state level in committee hearings where they’re really focused on criminal justice issues.”
Parker pointed to bipartisan support for the bill as a reason to take it seriously and said it’s unique to see a bill with such broad goodwill across the political aisle.
Hughes’ bill does not apply to emergency curfews, which cities may enact for management purposes under Chapter 418 of Texas government code. According to the full text of the bill, children with pending curfew citations cannot be prosecuted after its effective date. Children with existing convictions or adjudications, however, will not see their record impacted by the bill.
Williams was among the most vocal opponents of the curfew on Fort Worth’s City Council. After hosting a listening event at Hazel Harvey Peace Elementary, Williams said it was clear to him that extending the curfew was not the answer.
Now, he is set to introduce “The C.A.R.E. For Minors Resolution,” a multipronged resolution that would create “interdisciplinary teams of caring adults that consist of at least a social worker, a firefighter, EMT, a police officer, and two community members.”
The teams would operate during unofficial curfew hours, and provide support and resources including safety assessments, child needs assessment, parent/guardian communication and partnership, resource connections, and navigating children to safe spaces.
The city would also establish a 24/7 non-emergency hotline for parents and guardians of minors at risk to call and request services for kids who may be involved in minor offenses.
The program, Williams said, would also divert kids away from court or other punitive actions if they’re cited for minor offenses. District 8 council member Chris Nettles is a co-sponsor of the resolution alongside Williams.
“This is the best-possible scenario we could ask for when it comes to not only protecting, but empowering, our youth,” Nettles said in a news release.
Parker, however, said that Williams’ proposal as written is too expensive and that she’d prefer a different approach that works collaboratively with city staff and community organizations. She pointed to the city’s ongoing work with the One Second Collaborative, a partnership designed to end youth gun violence in Fort Worth.
“Is it redundant to what they’re going to do?” the mayor asked. “So we need to work closely with their steering committee to ask what of these programs or ideas need to be funded through the website collaborative.”
Above all, she said, she wants to prevent the issue from devolving into arguments among council members, and be a good steward of taxpayer dollars. She is working on a proposal of her own, which would incorporate some of Williams’ suggestions.
“All that to say Jared’s got some great ideas, but I just believe strongly in the government structure that we have, using our process the way it should be used, especially to be good fiscal stewards,” Parker said. “And there’s a reason we go through this process to fully vet ideas and policies because they all have a cost to taxpayers.”
Council members are expected to vote on Williams’ resolution Tuesday, and Parker said she intends to present her proposal at the same time. Depending on the final decision of the state Legislature, Parker said, the council may further revisit the curfew ordinance in the future.
At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here. Emily Wolf is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter.