Justice
11:03 am
Tue October 30, 2012

The school-to-prison pipeline is going to court

Credit ynkefan1 / flickr

Educational activists have been saying for years that the s0-called school-to-prison pipeline has gotten out of control.

These folks criticize schools for increasingly outsourcing school discipline to the cops. The children or teenagers in trouble then routinely enter the juvenile justice system, or in some cases go to jail. A recent study from Texas, a state long criticized for these kinds of discipline practices shows black boys and special education students suffer disproportionately from this type of discipline.

Last week, the United States Justice Department stepped into the middle of this issue when it brought a case against Meridian, Mississippi for allegedly violating children's Constitutional rights. The Justice Department actually used the words "school-to-prison pipeline" in it's court filings. It said the Meridian pipeline stepped afoul of those Constitutional Amendments that prohibit cruel and unusual punishment (Fourth Amendment), violating due process rights (Fifth Amendment) and equal protection under the law (14th Amendment).

The complaint by the Justice Department is pretty shocking. The Department alleges kids have been routinely sent into the juvenile justice system, sometimes for days without a hearing or other due process safeguards, for behavior including "profanity" and "dress code violations."

All of the students sent into the juvenile justice system in Meridian since 2006 have been black. Many of them have been special education students.

A lawyer for the county has gone on the record saying he was "surprised" by the lawsuit, but not much else has been heard from the school system or the city of Meridian.

The lawsuit is likely to have national implications.