The Justice Department is taking a stand against an educational policy in Mississippi that incarcerates kids for just being kids.The department says in its lawsuit that officials in the city of Meridian and Lauderdale County “routinely arrest students without determining whether there is probable cause when a school wants to press charges, and the students are routinely jailed,” The Associated Press reported Wednesday.
Students get in trouble for such minor offenses as wearing the wrong colour socks, flatulence in class, and swearing.
But this startling program, dubbed the “school-to-prison pipeline,” doesn’t seem confined to the deep south.
The American Civil Liberties Union has long been fighting what it calls the “national trend of criminalizing, rather than educating, our nation’s children.”
Here’s what the ACLU says about the issue:
- Zero-tolerance policies impose severe discipline on students without regard to individual circumstances. Under these policies, children have been expelled for giving Midol to a classmate, bringing household goods (including a kitchen knife) to school to donate to Goodwill, and bring¬ing scissors to class for an art project.
- Children as young as five years old are being led out of classrooms in handcuffs for acting out or throwing temper tantrums.
- In a growing number of jurisdictions, struggling students are sent involuntarily to disciplinary alternative schools. These alternative schools—sometimes run by private, for-profit companies—are not subject to traditional school accountability standards (such as minimum hours and curriculum requirements), and frequently fail to provide meaningful educational services to the students who need them the most. Some lack even the basics, such as teachers and textbooks, and many do not offer high school diplomas upon graduation.
And the students most affected by these programs are often the ones that needed the most help to begin with. Special education students account for 8.6 per cent of public school enrollment but 32 per cent of juvenile detention inmates, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union.
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