Schoolchildren, particularly African-American and disabled, are repeatedly imprisoned for minor infractions.
According to the US Department of Justice, school emphasis on punishment has created a "school-to-prison pipeline," which is just another form of racial oppression, adds Rethinking Schools.
The DOJ report focuses specifically on Lauderdale Co., MS, where teachers and principals place children at the mercy of a corrupt criminal justice system for infractions as small as dress-code violations.
The report confirms Rethinking Schools’ assertion that minorities are targeted in these violations of the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments by the county’s Youth Court and judges. Because the Lauderdale Co. judges have consistently denied civil rights investigators access to information, and the county and city of Meridian have failed to resolve this abuse, the DOJ has sued.
Tell Meridian and Lauderdale Co. to stop imprisoning schoolchildren.
We, the undersigned, are outraged by Mississippi's incarceration of school children for any reason, much more so for minor infractions. Adding to the outrage is Lauderdale County Court's failure to cooperate with investigations.
According to ABC News, DOJ released a letter of its findings after months of investigating the Lauderdale County Schools in Meridian, MS saying:
“By policy and practice, [the Meridian Police Department] MPD automatically arrests all students referred to MPD by the District. The children arrested by MPD are then sent to the County juvenile justice system, where existing due process protections are illusory and inadequate. The Youth Court places children on probation, and the terms of the probation set by the Youth Court and DYS require children on probation to serve any suspensions from school incarcerated in the juvenile detention center.”
Anyone who thinks putting children into detention centers, especially those run by private businesses and especially for minor infractions, should view Richard Ross' photo-survey, Juvenile-In-Justice, documenting conditions in 350 detention facilities in over 30 states - and read Pete Brook's alarming related story in Wired.
Ross points out that, along with the horrors of the dentention system, schools spend far less per child than their counties do to incarcerate them, citing Oakland, CA, "which spends $4945 per child in its public school system, but $224,712 per child incarcerated in the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center."
Ross hopes that his work, partly funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, will help influence schools to change they way they deal with behavior problems. Wired notes:
"In one instance, the director of a detention unit in Reno, Nevada showed Ross’ photos to school principals in the facility’s catchment area. Under a zero-tolerance policy toward violence, a schoolyard scuffle at the principals’ schools could result in children being sent to the lock-up. The director asked the principals to think about whether his facility was a suitable solution, or if incidents could be attended to without the use of a cinder block cell."
As TruthOut noted months ago, "We cannot build safe, creative, nurturing schools and criminalize our children at the same time."
We ask that you work with the DOJ and organizations like Rethinking Schools to end policies that focus on criminalization of children and instead seek those that follow creative and positive alternatives.
We insist that you stop imprisoning children and discriminating against minorities.
Thank you for your time.
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