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E.H. v. Mississippi Department of Education

Almost two years after finding that Mississippi’s Jackson Public School District violated federal special education law, the Mississippi Department of Education had failed to hold the district accountable and ensure that its students with disabilities were receiving services mandated by federal law.

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal class action lawsuit in 2012 against the department on behalf of these students to ensure they receive the services they need to succeed in the classroom.

The lawsuit described how the department failed to enforce its own December 2010 decision, which found the school district in violation of major components of federal special education law. The department’s decision – issued in response to a complaint filed by the SPLC – required the school district to develop and execute a plan to correct these violations within 12 months. The Mississippi Department of Education was bound by state and federal law to bring Jackson public schools into compliance.

The lawsuit also explained how students with disabilities in Jackson public schools often languished three or four grades behind their peers. These students were frequently denied access to critical educational services and related services, such as counseling, even though federal law requires school districts to provide these services. The district also violated the law by removing students from classrooms, often as punishment for behavior related to their disabilities.

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