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Statement of SPLC Attorney Thena Robinson

This morning, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana filed a civil rights class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana to vindicate the rights of our client and all schoolchildren who attend Sarah T. Reed Elementary School.

When school officials at Sarah T. Reed Elementary School ordered the handcuffing and shackling of a six year old first grader to a chair---they crossed the line. His crime? Arguing with another first grader over a seat in the school lunch room.

The Recovery School District assigns school police - uniformed security officers armed with guns, batons, and handcuffs - in an effort to keep kids safe. But this six year old does not feel safe. He has suffered physical and psychological trauma and is terrified to attend school for fear that officers with “big guns” will hurt him. And he should be fearful---because the principal at Sarah T. Reed clearly advised his parents that he would be handcuffed again if he refused to listen or comply with school rules in the future.

The act of forcibly restraining a young child and shackling them to a piece of furniture isn’t just inhumane. School officials conduct here was so unreasonable and excessively intrusive that it violates clearly established federal and state law.

But this case is about much more than the unlawful practices of one elementary school.

This case is symptomatic of a diseased school culture that treats students like criminals. Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the nation and RSD schools are conditioning students for prison---rather than college. Hopefully RSD officials will truly embrace the mantle of education reform and take immediate steps to end these unlawful practices and make our client whole.