Yes, you read the headline correctly. There are schools in Mississippi that have a “school-to-prison” pipeline whereby they are arresting kids (mostly African American and kids with disabilities) for “relatively” minor infractions such as violating the dress code and being disrespectful.
After months of investigating the school district of Meridian, MS, the Justice Department found that the Meridian police had a practice of automatically arresting the kids that the school district sent their way, never mind that their Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth amendment rights were being violated!
“The system established by the City of Meridian, Lauderdale County, and DYS to incarcerate children for school suspensions “˜shocks the conscience,’ resulting in the incarceration of children for alleged “˜offenses’ such as dress code violations, flatulence, profanity, and disrespect.” The Justice Department findings letter noted.”
“”The systematic disregard for children’s basic constitutional rights by agencies with a duty to protect and serve these children betrays the public trust,” said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. “We hope to resolve the concerns outlined in our findings in a collaborative fashion, but we will not hesitate to take appropriate legal action if necessary.””
This is simply appalling. We talked about this very topic on the site yesterday after finding a report by the The Civil Rights Project (CRP) that shows that disparities in school discipline are harming black students. Nationally, black students and students with disabilities are being given out of school suspensions as punishment at higher rates than other ethnic groups. The concern is that studies show that out of school suspensions lead to dropping out, or being introduced to the juvenile justice system. And it most certainly does in Meridian, MS!
We had a very healthy discussion about his topic on the our facebook page, as well as on our site yesterday. There were many educators that spoke up to say that many of these kids are truly disruptive to the educational process (over and over again) and there is no support from their parents at home.
But, is sending the kids to jail a good solution to this problem? Does being unruly in school mean that your rights should be automatically violated? What exactly is that going to solve? This will most certainly have long term affects on those kids, their families, their future kids, and our community as a whole. So when will this cycle end??
The solution will definitely need to be multifaceted. We need to pull the family structure together in our community, and we need more parents to be present, and involved. But, we also need to challenge the schools that have inequitable disciplinary practices for African American youth. We need to insist that the schools come up with better solutions than to put kids that are already at risk into jail.
BMWK Family – let’s continue the conversation. What is it going to take to turn this around?