Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)- Guest Blogger
I guess I should not be surprised that the State of Mississippi is once again in the news because the Federal Government has filed a Civil Rights lawsuit against it. The Department of Justice has filed a suit against the State of Mississippi, and the City of Meridian, along with the county and various state agencies, alleging that the defendants have worked to operate a “school to prison” system that allegedly violated the rights of African-American students and students with disabilities.
“As a result,” the court filing states, “children in Meridien have been systematically incarcerated for allegedly committing minor offenses, including school disciplinary infractions, and are punished disproportionately without due process of law. The students most affected by this system are African-American children ann children with disabilities.”
Specific allegations include handcuffing, arresting and “incarcerat(ing) for days at a time without a probable cause hearing, regardless of the severity—or lack thereof— of the alleged offense or probation violation; not providing “meaningful representation” to the juveniles during the justice process; making the children “regularly wait more than 48 hours” for a probable cause hearing; and not advising children of their Miranda rights before the children admit to formal charges.
Students can be incarcerated for “dress code infractions such as wearing the wrong color socks or undershirt, or for having shirts untucked; tardies; flatulence in class; using vulgar language; yelling at teachers; and going to the bathroom or leaving the classroom without permission,” the Associated Press reports.” Common Dreams
I read the Common Dreams article and the AP article linked above and I could not believe that I was reading about a school district in the year 2012! This article could have been written in the 1950’s and no one would have even flinched. I know that the good Benedictine Sisters that I had in grade school in the 1950’s and 60’s would use corporal punishment against myself and other students who “needed” discipline, but they would have never allowed the police to put us in jail for leaving the classroom without permission! Has the City of Meridian and the State of Mississippi been caught in a time warp that has prevented them from escaping the 1950’s?
The Department of Justice initiated the lawsuit against the city of Meridian and the State because they have refused to work with the DOJ as some other cities have with similar programs. “Gregory Davis, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, said it is disappointing that the local and state government agencies have not worked with the Department of Justice to resolve the violations.
Roy Austin Jr., deputy assistant attorney general, told the Associated Press that other areas around the country have “school-to-prison pipelines,” but this is the first time the civil rights division has filed a lawsuit based on these allegations. He said Shelby County, Tenn., is another example of a problematic area, but he said officials there are working with the Justice Department to fix the problems. “The department is bringing this lawsuit to ensure that all children are treated fairly and receive the fullest protection of the law,” Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, said in Thursday’s statement. ” Common Dreams
What would you do if your child was sent to jail for minor school infractions? The AP article linked above states that these students who are put into the juvenile justice system for minor school infractions can end up on Supervision and an additional school infraction can send them back to the detention centers! Does the State of Mississippi handle school districts that are not predominantly African-American in this disgusting manner?
“The Justice Department said Lauderdale County Youth Court Judges Frank Coleman and Veldore “Vel” Young denied the agency access to court hearings and information and directed the city of Meridian to withhold files concerning children. The Justice Department’s investigation began in December 2011. The school district has about 6,000 students, with 86 percent being black and 12 percent being white. From 2006 to the first semester of the 2009-2010 school year, all the students referred to law enforcement or expelled were black and 96 percent of those suspended were black, the lawsuit said.” Washington Post
I think that last quote from the Washington Post hits the nail on the head when it states that 100% of the students that were referred to law enforcement were black! I think it is fair to say that the City of Meridian and the State of Mississippi need to be sent to the principal for discipline! What is your take on this story?