A Look Back at 2011

A retrospective of some of the Southern Poverty Law Center's work in 2011.

Federal civil rights lawsuit filed against Minnesota school district for not allowing a same-sex couple to participate in a school assembly. The students’ rights were restored less than 24 hours later.

Report released on the detrimental effects of anti-immigrant laws. The laws are burdening taxpayers with millions in legal expenses, inflaming racial tensions and devastating businesses.

Report released on active 2010 hate groups. The list tops 1,000 for the first time.

Lawsuit filed against Forrest County, Miss., to force the county to comply with federal law and provide the children held at the county’s juvenile detention center with access to lawyers and civil rights advocates following reports of abusive conditions at the facility.

Report released examining extremist views of lawmakers attacking the 14th Amendment. The lawmakers are part of a national campaign to end the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of citizenship for all children born in the United States.

Federal lawsuit continues against the Louisiana Department of Education. The lawsuit is on behalf of thousands of New Orleans students with special needs.These students are denied access to New Orleans public schools and often pushed into schools unable to provide them with the educational services they are due under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Forty years of fighting for justice are celebrated at the SPLC anniversary in Montgomery.


SPLC 40th Anniversary Celebration Closing Session
SPLC supporters at the closing session of the 40th Anniversary Celebration.

Judge applies federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act to lawsuit on behalf of more than 350 Filipino teachers brought to the U.S. to work in Louisiana public schools. This establishes a new precedent in protecting victims of human trafficking. Another precedent is set with the case is granted class-action status.

Federal lawsuit filed to protect the rights of children and teens who face inhumane treatment in Mississippi's largest juvenile detention center. The suit says Hinds County, which operates Henley-Young Juvenile Justice Center in Jackson, violates the constitutional rights of children by subjecting them to prolonged periods of isolation and sensory deprivation, denying them mental health services, and subjecting them to verbal abuse and threats of physical harm.

Federal lawsuit won against one of the Southeast's largest employers of foreign guestworkers. The company will be held accountable for routinely cheating workers out of their wages. Some 1,500 guestworkers could recover more than $2 million. The ruling also sets a precedent that will make it more difficult for companies and their owners to skirt their responsibilities to workers.

Federal class-action lawsuit filed against the Jackson Public School District in Mississippi for allowing an alternative school to shackle and handcuff students for hours at a time as punishment for school uniform violations and other minor infractions.

Racist skinhead's story of redemption is told on MSNBC. Bryon Widner left the white power movement, with the help of SPLC, and endured nearly two years of excruciating laser treatments to remove the tell-tale tattoos so that he could start a new life with his wife and children.

Lawsuit filed against the state of Georgia for passing an anti-immigration law based of Arizona's SB 1070. The decision by a federal judge to block part of the bill was a major blow to the racist, anti-immigrant law. The bill will not allow police to check the immigration status of individuals nor make it a crime to transport or harbor an undocumented immigrant.

Lawsuit filed against the state of Alabama for passing an anti-immigration law. Alabama HB-56 has over 30 provisions. Several remain in effect, while others including discriminatory housing practices have been halted. However, with a growing number of immigrants affected by the law, the battle continues.

Lawsuit filed against the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota over their anti-gay harassment in the district's schools and a gag policy, which prevents teachers from discussing issues related to the LGBT population.

Free speech rights restored to a Hoover, Ala. high school student. Sophomore Sarah Couvillon who was told she could not wear a t-shirt that read "gay? fine by me." After stepping in, SPLC attorneys praised the school for their decision to allow the t-shirt to be worn.

Sara Couvillon, a sophomore at Hoover High School in Hoover, Ala., was told by school officials in August that she could not wear a T-shirt that displayed the slogan “Gay? Fine by me.”

Wrongful death lawsuit filed against Mississippi teens in killing of a black man. James C. Anderson was viciously beaten in a motel parking lot and then fatally run over. The lawsuit accuses seven white teenagers of deliberately setting out in the early morning hours to look for black people to attack.

Report released finding that more than half of states fail at teaching the civil rights movement. States were graded on a letter scale. Only three states: Alabama, New York and Florida, received an A.

National campaign launched to stop conversion therapy, a practice that claims to “convert” people from homosexuality to heterosexuality. Conversion therapy has been discredited or highly criticized by virtually all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations.

Lawsuit filed to stop South Carolina's anti-immigrant law SB 20. The Southern Poverty Law Center and a coalition of civil rights groups charged that the law is unconstitutional, invites racial profiling and interferes with federal law. Federal district court later blocked a major part of the law. Under the ruling, the law will not take effect on Jan. 1 as originally planned.

Settlement reached to improve conditions and stop abuses at a Mississippi juvenile detention center. The center, located in Hattiesburg said it will comply with federal law requiring that children at the Forrest County Detention Center be allowed to access lawyers and civil rights advocates.

Federal class-action lawsuit filed in Florida on behalf of several aspiring college students who are denied in-state college tuition rates in Florida because they cannot prove the lawful immigration status of their parents. The students are U.S. citizens.

Verdict upheld against Klan leader in Kentucky. An appellate court upheld the $1.3 million verdict against a Klan leader at the center of a large network of neo-Nazis, racist skinheads and other violent white supremacists. The case was filed on behalf of Jordan Gruver, a teenager who was brutally beaten by Klansmen at a county fair in Brandenburg, Ky., in July 2006.

Durham, N.C. public schools agree to end discriminatory practices that created a hostile environment for Latino students and hindered their education. SPLC found the district's old practices were harmful to teachers as well as students, and under the new agreement, the district's stronger anti-discrimination policy and new procedures will guarantee non-English speaking students and families are included in the education process.

Lawsuit filed challenging a practice in many Alabama counties that denies undocumented individuals and U.S. citizens whose intended spouses are undocumented their constitutional right to marry.

Efforts continue in Birmingham to stop allowing city officials to use mace to control students. The school district has more cases of mace-related-incidents than any other in the country

Class-action status granted to a human-trafficking suit involving 250 Filipino teachers. The decision set a historical precedent because it will be the first time the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) has been applied to a group of people, rather than just individual victims.