Public schools in Jackson, Miss., often failed to provide students with disabilities the services mandated by federal law and needed for these students to succeed in the classroom. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a formal complaint on behalf of these students with the Mississippi Department of Education, which found the district had violated major components of the federal law that ensures students with disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education.
Children at Sarah T. Reed Elementary School in New Orleans were subjected to unlawful arrest and excessive force – including handcuffing and shackling – for minor violations of school rules. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of a first-grade student handcuffed and shackled to a chair by an armed security officer after the student argued with another youth. A settlement agreement resulted in the school district prohibiting the use of fixed restraints and limiting the use of handcuffs.
Mississippi's mental health system is failing children from low-income households. The state fails to invest in community-based services and instead pumps the bulk of its resources into ineffective, expensive institutions. Parents are often forced to choose between hospitalizing their children or foregoing mental health services altogether.
Hinds County School District officials violated the constitutional rights of a 10th–grader who was expelled for throwing a penny that landed on his school bus driver. The expulsion and subsequent assignment to an alternative school threatens to derail the academic and athletic career of the 16-year-old boy, a good student who dreamed of a collegiate basketball scholarship.
Children and teens held at the Lauderdale County Juvenile Detention Center in Mississippi were subjected to shockingly inhumane treatment. The youths endured physical and mental abuse as they were crammed into small, filthy cells and tormented with pepper spray for minor infractions. The Southern Poverty Law Center sued Lauderdale County and reached a settlement agreement to end the abuses.
Children held at the Harrison County Juvenile Detention Center in Mississippi endured squalid conditions and horrific physical and mental abuse that violated their civil rights. They were forced to endure shackling, physical assaults by staff, confinement to vermin-infested cells and overcrowded, unsanitary conditions that resulted in widespread contraction of scabies and staph infections. The detention center also failed to provide children with adequate medical and mental health care during their confinement. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal class action lawsuit that resulted in a settlement agreement to protect children and teens detained at the center from abuse and neglect.
Students with disabilities in Palm Beach County, Fla., endured a culture of neglect and overly harsh discipline because the school district failed to provide the counseling, social work and psychological services required by law. The Southern Poverty Law Center and a coalition of advocacy groups filed a class action administrative complaint to bring Palm Beach County schools into compliance with federal special education law and end practices that exclude or isolate children with disabilities.
Students with disabilities in Hillsborough County, Fla., were deprived of special education services required by law and subjected to harsh punishment that pushed them along a path to incarceration. The Southern Poverty Law Center, joined by the Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities, filed a class action administrative complaint to bring Hillsborough County schools into compliance with federal special education law and end practices that exclude or isolate children with disabilities.
At the Calcasieu Parish Public School System in Louisiana, students with disabilities or emotional disturbances were deprived of the educational services required under federal law. The SPLC filed a class administrative complaint against the school district and reached a negotiated settlement agreement ensuring the services are provided and these students are not arbitrarily removed from class.
The Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit on behalf of mentally ill girls living at the Columbia Training School who were shackled, physically and sexually abused, and provided with inadequate mental health treatment.