An Alabama law gave tax breaks to families transferring their children to successful schools, discriminating against impoverished students in the state’s Black Belt region who were trapped in failing schools. The SPLC asked a federal court to permanently block the Alabama Accountability Act, saying the law violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause because it impermissibly created two classes of students assigned to failing schools – those who can escape them because of their parents’ income or where they live and those who cannot.
M.C. was born with an intersex condition – a difference in reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the typical definition of male or female. When M.C. was just 16 months old and in the care of the South Carolina Department of Social Services, doctors and department officials decided the child should undergo sex assignment surgery to make M.C. a girl. There was no medical reason to perform this surgery, which robbed M.C. of the opportunity to decide what should happen to his body. The SPLC filed a lawsuit on behalf of M.C.’s adoptive parents.
Almost two years after finding that Mississippi’s Jackson Public School District violated federal special education law, the Mississippi Department of Education had failed to hold the district accountable and ensure that its students with disabilities were receiving services required by federal law. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal class action lawsuit in 2012 against the department on behalf of these students.
North Carolina’s Wake County Public School System denied Spanish-speaking parents the opportunity to participate in their children’s education. The school system provided school notices, such as notices of long-term suspensions and special education materials, in English to English-speaking parents but failed to provide this information to Spanish-speaking parents in Spanish – discriminating against these students and violating state and federal law. The Southern Poverty Law Center and Advocates for Children’s Services, a project of Legal Aid of North Carolina, filed a complaint against the school district with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. This complaint resulted in the school district agreeing to develop a plan to ensure Spanish-speaking parents have the opportunity to participate in their child’s education.
African-American students and students with disabilities in Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish Public Schools were disproportionately referred to alternative school, where they often languish for months or even years before returning to regular classes. These students often were referred to alternative schools for minor misconduct, such as disrespectful behavior, use of profanity, disrupting class and horseplay.
The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of Polk County youth, which charges that Polk County detains youth charged as juveniles under adult standards. It also charges that Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd allows guards to brutalize children and fails to provide these youth with adequate educational and rehabilitative services.
African-American students in Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish Public Schools were disproportionately arrested for minor rule violations across the school district. These students often experienced physical abuse while being detained, including one student whose arm was broken as sheriff’s officers detained him. They were also subjected to racially offensive language and other inappropriate comments while being detained. The U.S. Department of Education launched an investigation after the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a complaint describing these conditions.
The state of Georgia discriminated against students with disabilities by funding public schools through a formula that encouraged schools to unnecessarily segregate students with disabilities to receive greater funding. The Department of Justice launched an investigation after the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a complaint with the department charging the state of Georgia and the Georgia Department of Education with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
The state of Florida denied in-state college tuition rates to U.S. citizens living in the state but unable to prove the lawful immigration status of their parents – an unconstitutional policy that more than tripled the cost of tuition. The SPLC filed a federal lawsuit to end the practice.
Students at Jackson Public School District’s Capital City Alternative School have regularly been disciplined for minor infractions, such as not wearing a belt or for wearing mismatched shoelaces, by being shackled for hours at a time to a fixed object. The lawsuit was filed after Jackson Public Schools refused to respond to a demand letter requesting that the school district end these practices.