11/10/2010

Lawsuit Changes New Orleans Schools Security Policies

The Louisiana Recovery School District (RSD) will make important policy revisions that will protect New Orleans students from abusive restraints, handcuffing and shackling. These reforms result from a settlement reached in a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana (JJPL).
 
“The Recovery School District has reinforced its commitment to their students,” said Thena Robinson, lead attorney for the SPLC. “Hopefully, schools throughout the state will follow RSD’s lead and take action to protect students from the brutal restraints and abusive punishments that far too many students endure on a daily basis.”
 
Earlier this year, the SPLC and JJPL filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of a first-grade student who was handcuffed and shackled to a chair by an armed security officer after he argued with another youth over a seat in the lunchroom at New Orleans' Sarah T. Reed Elementary School. The school is part of the Louisiana Recovery School District.
 
The boy, known as J.W. in the court filing, was just 6 years old when the incident occurred on May 6. School officials told the boy’s father that the handcuffing and seizure was required under school rules.
 
As a result of the settlement, the RSD has prohibited the use of fixed restraints and limited the use of handcuffs. The RSD will also provide formal training to all security personnel on the settlement terms.
 
“We applaud the Recovery School District’s progress towards reforming school security policies,” said Carol Kolinchak, JJPL’s Legal Director. “This is an important and meaningful first step, but unfortunately, much more must be done to protect all students from harsh discipline practices that force them out of the classroom and subject them to physical abuse. We will continue to work to reform these outdated practices on behalf of children and families across the state.”