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A.M. v. Jackson Public Schools

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. The complaint described how the district segregated a disproportionate number of students with disabilities in the alternative school — frequently as punishment for behavior related to their disabilities.

Other students languished three or four grades behind their peers academically. None of the students described in the complaint received related services, such as counseling, during the 2009-10 school year, even though federal law requires school districts to provide these services. The complaint also described the adverse effect harsh disciplinary policies had on students, who missed weeks of school for violating minor school rules.

In November 2010, the Mississippi Department of Education found the district had violated major components of IDEA. The decision required the school district to submit an improvement plan to the state department of education before Dec. 22, 2010.

The Southern Disability Law Center and Disability Rights Mississippi joined the SPLC in filing the initial complaint.