New Article: What the DOJ Can’t Do on School Discipline Reform

Screen shot from “The 1964 Murders of Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman,” a video by The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia. Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia

Screen shot from “The 1964 Murders of Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman,” a video by The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia. Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia

An excellent historical look at racial disparity in one town’s school-to-prison-pipeline.

In Meridian, Mississippi, the Department of Justice initiated a case review of the town during the 2007-2008 school year, confirming that African-American students were treated more harshly than their white counterparts.

During one six-year period studied, students were arrested for such simple things as dress code violations. Two weeks ago, the DOJ ordered a federal decree to the town in order to dismantle the school-to-prison-pipeline. The new consent decree addresses many of the former abuses and calls upon adults to modify their own behavior. Here are some of the requirements:

  • Schools will have to call parents about their children’s dress-code violations and ask them to bring their sons or daughters the appropriate clothing.
  • Meridian must rewrite its school discipline code and enlist police officers to arrest students for only serious and/or violent offenses.
  • The system must track racial disparities and modify practices where they persist.
  • Meridian must provide due process protections for students, such as requiring the district to inform them of what they’re being charged with when they face suspension or expulsion.”

Nationwide, black students are three and a half times more likely to be suspended from school than their white counterparts. Since 2011, The Departments of Education and Justice have been supporting school districts’ adoption of restorative justice practices.

The question of course in Meridian, and nationwide, is about accountability and how to ensure lasting change. Read More…

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