Disciplining Black Students: Federal Order May Restrict Harsher Punishments

April 03, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Education, Poverty, Prison Industrial Complex, White Privilege

The case of a 6-year-old Georgia girl being arrested spotlights the complex issue of disciplining black children. (YouTube)

From The Root:

(The Root) — Federal mediators and public school administrators in Meridian, Miss., have reached a landmark agreement to launch a rewards-based disciplinary plan, aimed at keeping in the classroom more black students who routinely received harsher disciplinary action when accused of relatively minor infractions.

The March 22 consent decree outlined by the U.S. Department of Justice awaits a federal court’s final approval. Seen as a potential precursor to how that federal agency may resolve its present investigation of similar complaints in Seattle — and trailing a similar 2012 agreement between the Justice Department and Oakland Unified School District in California — the Meridian order comes as school-reform advocates across the country have spent roughly a decade trying to dismantle what they label as a school-to-prison pipeline. Some view ouster from school as a starting point in that journey.

“There are a combination of factors that lead to this overuse of suspensions and the criminalization of young people,” civil rights lawyer Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Washington, D.C.-based Advancement Project, told The Root. “One, we live in a high-stakes testing environment where schools are so focused on tests scores that they’re not [sufficiently] focused on kids. It gives a perverse incentive to push out kids who are having academic problems.

“It fosters an environment where educators have less tolerance. We definitely have implicit bias that works against children, where young people are being targeted differently, especially black boys.”

Still pending is a federal lawsuit filed in October 2012 against the Meridian Police Department, Lauderdale County Youth Court and the state of Mississippi. In it, the Justice Department alleges that those entities systematically violated the due process rights of students whom the school district referred to law enforcement.

The Justice Department’s investigation noted that black students in Meridian, where 61 percent of the city’s roughly 41,000 residents are black, “frequently received harsher disciplinary consequences, including longer suspensions, than white students for comparable misbehavior, even where the students were at the same school, were of similar ages and had similar disciplinary histories.”

Openly Gay Mayoral Candidate Was Beaten, Set On Fire And Dumped Near A River

March 05, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Intersectionality, LGBTQ, Poverty

From ThinkProgress:

The family of Marco McMillian, a 33 year-old openly gay candidate for mayor of Clarksdale, Mississippi released a statement yesterday saying that he was beaten and set on fire before his lifeless body was dumped near a river. Last Thursday, police arrested a 22-year old man who, like McMillian, is African-American and charged him with the mayoral candidate’s murder. Although the motive for the murder remains unknown, the circumstances of the murder suggest a possible anti-gay hate crime. According to the family, “[w]e feel this was not a random act of violence based on the condition of the body when it was found.”

The Shocking Details of a Mississippi School-to-Prison Pipeline

December 05, 2012 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Education, Intersectionality, Poverty, Prison Industrial Complex, White Privilege

From Colorlines:

Cedrico Green can’t exactly remember how many times he went back and forth to juvenile. When asked to venture a guess he says, “Maybe 30.” He was put on probation by a youth court judge for getting into a fight when he was in eighth grade. Thereafter, any of Green’s school-based infractions, from being a few minutes late for class to breaking the school dress code by wearing the wrong color socks, counted as violations of his probation and led to his immediate suspension and incarceration in the local juvenile detention center.

But Green wasn’t alone. A bracing Department of Justice lawsuit filed last month against Meridian, Miss., where Green lives and is set to graduate from high school this coming year, argues that the city’s juvenile justice system has operated a school to prison pipeline that shoves students out of school and into the criminal justice system, and violates young people’s due process rights along the way.

In Meridian, when schools want to discipline children, they do much more than just send them to the principal’s office. They call the police, who show up to arrest children who are as young as 10 years old. Arrests, the Department of Justice says, happen automatically, regardless of whether the police officer knows exactly what kind of offense the child has committed or whether that offense is even worthy of an arrest. The police department’s policy is to arrest all children referred to the agency.

Once those children are in the juvenile justice system, they are denied basic constitutional rights. They are handcuffed and incarcerated for days without any hearing and subsequently warehoused without understanding their alleged probation violations.

“[D]efendants engage in a pattern or practice of unlawful conduct through which they routinely and systematically arrest and incarcerate children, including for minor school rule infractions, without even the most basic procedural safeguards, and in violation of these children’s constitutional rights,” the DOJ’s 37-page complaint reads. Meridian’s years of systemic abuse punish youth “so arbitrarily and severely as to shock the conscience,” the complaint reads.

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