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Judge: Inspectors May Enter Meridian Public Schools

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 26 Mar 2012 04:05pm | comments
Meridian NAACP president John Harris.

Starting today investigators from the US Department of Justice will be be touring Meridian Public Schools to investigate claims that the school system is unfairly punishing black students for minor offenses. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that the inspections follow a ruling by a federal judge in Jackson yesterday.

For years, Parents have been making allegations that black students in Meridian Public Schools have been receiving huge punishments for minor infractions compared to their white counter parts.

John Harris, the president of the Meridian Chapter of the NAACP, believes the investigation will back up the anecdotal reports.

"And the numbers will be seen because they can examine the books now. I think once you examine the books you will be able to see how many were sent to the juvenile center, how many have been disciplined, what where they disciplined for. And then you will be able to see," Harris said.

A federal judge in Hinds County ruled that the school system must allow federal attorneys and two education experts access to all the schools in the county, as well as discipline statistics, to check out the claims.

Attorneys for the school district declined to comment on the ruling after the hearing.

But in court, school district Attorney Holmes Adams told Judge Henry Wingate that the inspectors would be disruptive to the class room, saying "As you can imagine, an entourage of 5, 6, or 7 people, when the door opens and these adults walk in this is a disruption. Time is lost"

The district is willing to cooperate, Adams said, but felt the same goal could be reached through depositions with school leaders and a review of disciplinary data.

Government attorneys say they need firsthand experience of a normal school day.

To which Judge Wingate ask "it wouldn't be exactly normal if you are going around with an entourage".

Still, the judge pointed to a previous set of inspections from 2008 that did not cause a major disruption as evidence enough to allow them in again.

The Meridian Public school district is 86 percent black.

Meridian NAACP president John Harris hopes the investigation leads a better relationship between the school district and students.

"The Department of Justice and whoever else is involved can put their heads together to formulate a plan that we can stop this vicious cycle. And we can do something to improve our education system and improve community relationships with our school," Harris said.

Inspectors will be in the schools through Friday.

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Meridian NAACP president John Harris.


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