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Jackson Public Schools Challenged Over Treatment of Emotionally Troubled Children

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 01 Dec 2010 09:32am | comments
Lula Henry (front) explains the challenges she faced.

The Mississippi Department of Education has given the Jackson Public School District until late this month to fix problems with how they educate students with emotional and behavioral disabilities. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that the changes follow complaints by parents and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Some parents of disabled children in the Jackson Public School District went to the Southern Poverty Law Center after feeling their concerns were not addressed. They claim the school district has systemic problems educating kids with emotional and behavioral disabilities.

Surounded at parents and lawyers at the SPLC's Jackson office, Jed Oppenheim said JPS is not meeting their legal requirements, is too loose with 'zero tolerance' style punishment, and that he contends, pushes children out of the system.

"These are not all students with intellectual disabilities. Many of these students have the ability to graduate with their non-disabled peers. Yet, only 7.8% of students with disabilities graduated in the 2009-2010 school year," Oppenheim said.

Oppenhiem estimates that there are 3-thousand students in the district with emotion and behavioral disabilities.

Lula Henry says she struggled to get extra help for her 15 year old son who has trouble reading. She thinks the school district had little concern for son's challenges.

"They expect for every child to be perfect. And the ones that are not, they want to put them in a classroom, close the door, and act like they don't exist. At the end of the day put them on a bus and send them home and that is it," Henry said.

The law center took the complaints to the Mississippi Department of Education, which reviewed them and found them to be valid. They have given school district leaders until late December to come up with a plan to address the problems.

Henry just wants the district to take more care with children like her son.

"And they just want somebody to listen to them and help them. And if they would do that, you would be amazed at what we would have coming out of schools and going to college," Henry said.

The Jackson Public School District is withholding comment at this time.

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Lula Henry (front) explains the challenges she faced.


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