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.
Angel Francisco Castro-Torres was riding his bicycle in Smyrna, Ga., when he was stopped by two Cobb County police officers. According to their own report, the officers stopped him after observing his race. The officers demanded Castro’s identification and questioned his immigration status. He was also beaten – resulting in a broken nose and eye socket – and arrested. He required surgery to repair the damage to this eye. A settlement agreement was reached nearly nine months after the lawsuit was filed.
Mississippi authorities took a newborn baby from her Mexican immigrant mother and placed the daughter with two white Gulf Coast lawyers who frequently practiced law before the youth court judge who approved the child’s removal. The mother was then prohibited from speaking publicly about her family's ordeal despite her request to waive confidentiality rules of the youth court. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the family and appealed the earlier gag order.
The SPLC filed a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of more than 350 Filipino teachers who were lured to Louisiana to teach in public schools under the federal H-1B guest worker program. The teachers were cheated out of tens of thousands of dollars and forced into exploitive contracts. A jury in 2012 ordered a labor recruiting firm and its owner to pay $4.5 million in damages to the teachers.
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.
Frantz Pierre, a migrant farmworker from Haiti, was denied compensation by the South Carolina Worker’s Compensation Commission after falling and breaking his right ankle outside company housing. He had just arrived at the 400-acre tomato farm owned by Seaside Farms on St. Helena Island when he slipped on a wet sidewalk outside the workers’ barrack-like dormitory. After the Southern Poverty Law Center took legal action on Pierre’s behalf, the South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed Pierre's right to compensation and sent the case back to the lower court.
Bernard Monroe Sr., an elderly black man, was shot to death on his front porch by a white police officer who had entered his house in Homer, La., without apparent justification or a warrant. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a wrongful death lawsuit that alleged two white officers created a volatile situation when they entered Monroe’s property during a gathering of his family and friends on Feb. 20, 2009. A settlement agreement was reached with the town in August 2010.
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.