Mississippi’s Policy of Matriculation Through Incarceration

PrisonCell220px-ClassroomI have previously written about the trend in our schools to use arrests as substitutes for school discipline for students. A new report highlights this trend and leaves a particularly shocking account of the situation in the Mississippi school system which remains 50th on teacher salaries but leads the nation in putting its students in jail.

The Mississippi school system has always been a national disgrace due to the lack of funding and focus by state politicians on education. It is one of the most basic tasks of government but Mississippi politicians have left their state languishing at the bottom of virtually every survey of schools. Where they have achieved distinction is in the incarceration rather than the matriculation of students. The Justice Department has sued Meridan, Mississippi for routinely arresting students without probable cause.

Now a report shows this is not unique to Meridan. The report found that in one Mississippi school district, 33 of every 1,000 children have been arrested or referred to juvenile detention centers. The vast majority of arrests were for disciplinary problems. This includes cases like a child was taken into custody for wearing shoes that were not in compliance with school rules. Mississippi imposes suspensions 150% more than the national average with some districts showing a rate 900% above the national average.

The school and state officials seem intent on erasing the separation between the jailhouse and the schoolhouse. Ironically, with the rise of the prison industry, our schools now appear to be feeders for raw material in Mississippi. I fail to understand how Mississippians can tolerate such a school system. They clearly love their children and yet do not insist on a major reform of their schools. This ongoing record of subpar performance by the schools continues to limit the economy and development of the state. I understand that Mississippi remains one of the least affluent states but the policies are not the product of limited resources but a breakdown of leadership in the state.

Source: NY Times

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