In the early morning hours of June 26, 2011, a black man was attacked in the parking lot of a Jackson, Miss., motel and then fatally run over by a truck. The Southern Poverty Law Center joined Mississippi attorney Winston J. Thompson III, in filing a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the man’s family. The civil lawsuit accused seven white teenagers of deliberately setting out to harass a black person.
Students in the Anoka-Hennepin School District have been subjected to harassment based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation, at least in part the result of a gag policy that prevents teachers from discussing issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) people.
Alabama passed an extreme anti-immigrant law in June 2011. The law threatened to chill children’s access to public schools by requiring school officials to verify the immigration status of children and their parents; authorized police to demand “papers” demonstrating citizenship or immigration status during traffic stops; and criminalized Alabamians for everyday interactions with undocumented individuals. The SPLC led a coalition of civil rights groups in filing a federal class action lawsuit that resulted in an agreement that effectively gutted the law.
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.
Georgia in 2011 enacted a law authorizing police to demand "papers" demonstrating citizenship or immigration status during traffic stops, criminalizes Georgians who interact with undocumented individuals, and makes it unjustifiably difficult for individuals without specific identification documents to access state facilities and services. The SPLC joined a group of organizations in filing a class action lawsuit challenging the law on constitutional grounds.
Children held at the Henley-Young Juvenile Justice Center in Jackson, Miss., were denied mental health services and subjected to verbal abuse and threats of physical harm by staff members. The Southern Poverty Law Center and Disability Rights Mississippi filed a class action lawsuit in June 2011 after numerous attempts to resolve the issues with county officials failed. A settlement agreement to protect youth at the facility was approved in March 2012.
The public school system of Mobile County, Ala., violated the constitutional rights of students by suspending them for months at a time over minor misbehavior without giving parents and guardians an opportunity to defend them. The SPLC filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of six students suspended for apparent minor misbehavior such as un-tucked shirts, tardiness or failing to carry a school ID.
Hundreds of guest workers from India, lured by false promises of permanent U.S. residency, paid tens of thousands of dollars each to obtain temporary jobs at Gulf Coast shipyards only to find themselves forced into involuntary servitude and living in overcrowded, guarded labor camps. The SPLC filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the workers, David v. Signal International, LLC. Three years later, a lawsuit was filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC v. Signal International, LLC, alleging Signal unlawfully discriminated against the Indian guest workers.
Latino students in Durham, N.C., public schools were subjected to pervasive discrimination throughout the school district. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. The SPLC eventually reached an agreement with the Durham Public Schools system to end discriminatory practices that created this hostile environment for Latino students.
The Forrest County Juvenile Detention Center in Mississippi was the site of numerous abuse allegations. Security camera footage from the facility showed youths being slammed into walls and beaten by staffers. When Disability Rights Mississippi (DRMS) attempted to provide the youths with services to protect them from further abuse, Forrest County officials blocked access to them. The Southern Poverty Law Center and DRMS sued the county to force it to comply with federal law and allow DRMS access to the children. After county officials settled the suit by granting access, a second lawsuit was filed challenging the inhumane conditions found at the facility in Hattiesburg. County officials agreed to improve the conditions at the facility as part of a settlement agreement for the second lawsuit.