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Report: Black Students Face Harsher Discipline

By Daniel Cherry | Published 08 Feb 2013 06:56pm | comments
A new study from the Children's Defense Fund says black children in Mississippi public schools are more than twice as likely to be disciplined or punished than white students. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports, advocates are calling for an end to zero tolerance discipline policies.
 
The Children's Defense Fund study says zero tolerance policies create what they call, the Cradle to Prison Pipeline. Oleta Garrett Fitzgerald is Southern Regional Director for the Defense Fund.
 
"We're very concerned about the number of children that are being expelled or suspended in Mississippi as a result of zero tolerance, and we think, zero tolerance policies as they went off the deep and in Meridian are something we might be having more of a problem with in other districts across the state."
 
Fitzgerald is referring to a situation with Meridian Public Schools where the U.S. Justice Department filed suit against the district for for unnecessarily suspending and incarcerating students for minor offenses. Marian Wright Edelman is founder and director of the Children's Defense Fund. She says situations like this are forcing students out of school, leaving them uneducated and unable to find jobs.
 
"It is becoming the new American apartheid. It is resegregating. It is going to undermine the last 50 years of civil rights progress if we don't look at it, see it, and break it up."
 
Advocates call for Mississippi schools to review out of school suspension policies and to come up with alternatives to suspension and expulsion. Jody Owens, Director of the Mississippi Southern Policy Law Center says it's time for a change.
 
"These policies do not work. They do not increase academic achievement we reach in the classroom by removing children that we have problems with. Unfortunately, the data supports just the opposite. The likelihood that taking kids out of the classroom increases the likelihood they find themselves into our jail system."
 
In a previous statement regarding the matter, the Mississippi Department of Education said it encourages school districts to implement policies to ensure all children are treated fairly, and it cautions against sending students to alternative school for minor infractions.

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