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Meridian Schools, Justice Department Reach Deal on Discipline Policies

By Daniel Cherry | Published 22 Mar 2013 04:37pm | comments
The Meridian Public School District is in the process of implementing discipline practices that would end discrimination of black students. 
 
The U.S. Justice Department and Meridian Schools entered into an agreement that would put limits on out of school suspensions and stop involving law enforcement for non-threatening behavior. Jocelyn Samuels with the Department of Justice says black students were much more likely than white students to face stiff penalties for minor offenses.
 
"(The discipline practices) are excluding students from school for minor disciplinary infractions. Students are being suspended, expelled, or even arrested for school uniform violations, talking back to teachers, or laughing in class."
 
The DOJ says black students were 5 times as likely to face out of school suspensions than white students with similar disciplinary records. Dr. Alvin Taylor, Superintendent of Meridian Public Schools took over two years ago and he's in agreement with the DOJ. Dr. Taylor says he's been working to clean up some of the issues. 
 
"If a student's shirt is out or they're rolling their eyes at a teacher, is that misbehavior? Yes and it need to be addressed. Does that student need to be kicked out of school for that? No."
 
Justice Department officials thanked the school district for its willingness to solve any discrimination. Jocelyn Samuels with the DOJ says this kind of discrimination isn't isolated to Meridian or Mississippi, but is seen across the nation. She hopes this can be used to solve problems elsewhere.
 
"This decree provides a blueprint that we hope will provide guidance for other school districts that are seeking to reform their discipline practices in order to engage this generation of students and ensure their educational success."
 
The Justice Department still has a lawsuit against the city of Meridian, Lauderdale County, two Lauderdale County Youth Court judges, and the Mississippi Department of Human Services. The suit alleges all are involved with creating a school to prison pipeline.
 

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