Of all of the Texas exceptions to jury service, the one that makes the least amount of sense is the student exception. For some reason, the state of Texas has decided that those who attend college are completely unable to miss a week of class. They are giving an exception to the same students who, according to a CBS article, skip 13 classes per semester on their own. Many articles on juries, especially in this blog, discuss that young adults are massively underrepresented in the jury system we should not allow an additional break.
I feel that there should be certain situations where students are excepted from jury duty. If the student has a temporary residence away from their permanent residence, it is probably unfeasible to expect them to make the trek home for jury duty. However, as a recent study showed, 30% of all college students traveled less than 25 miles away to college. Online classes also accounted for 45% of classes taken in 2013, most of these classes are very flexible in their schedule and do not require a student to account for them in a weekly schedule. The “Going Away to College” myth, permanently cemented into the public consciousness by Blink-182, is not as common of a reality in today’s world. The fact is, most college students can reach the courthouse for a week's worth of time.
The arguments for giving students an exception are fairly clear, education is our first priority. Yet, why are college students given priority over middle class America that have to weigh the costs of attending jury duty? The education given to college students by the opportunity of attending jury duty is a civic education more valuable than a week of classes taken. We have long been hampered by the low voter turnout of the young American, not cracking a 50% voter turnout since 1972, we need to find more ways to bring forth the necessities of civic duty. Most importantly, the young are one of the most underrepresented classes in our current system, we should do everything that we can to reverse that trend. Most states do not have this exception and it is easy to see why. There are currently around 30 million college students between the ages of 18 and 24 in the United States. By being able to reach a portion of this population we would be able to change the current jury landscape drastically.
I propose that we change the exception in Texas to only exceptions where you are attending school 25 miles or more away from your permanent address, or have no means of transportation to come back for jury duty. With the increase of online classes, which are not usually time sensitive, and the flippant attitude held by college students in regards to their studies anyways, there is no viable reason why we should value the attendance of classes over attending to work. Some states have recently tried to give students an exemption, but I think that the opposite should happen here in Texas. By giving those who are physically able to come to the courthouse, and not face any financial challenges we are not only giving the young a chance to be heard in a public forum, but we are also able to take some of the burden off of those workers that are severely hurt by jury duty.