Late last week, the federal government asserted that a school district in Mississippi had been violating the constitutional rights of students by imprisoning them for “violations” as minor as “defiance.”
Officials in Lauderdale County, Mississippi, have operated “a school-to-prison pipeline” that violates the constitutional rights of juveniles by incarcerating them for alleged school disciplinary infractions, some as minor as defiance, the U.S. Department of Justice said Friday.
“Students most affected by this system are African-American children and children with disabilities,” the Justice Department said.
The federal agency’s civil rights division seeks “meaningful negotiations” in 60 days to end the constitutional violations or else a federal lawsuit would be filed against state, county and local officials in Meridian, according to a Justice Department letter dated Friday to those officials.
Usually I supply some long, sweeping, and way too wordy essay about an event, but this is just an atrocity. An absolute atrocity. If the poor state of the American educational system wasn’t enough–and Mississippi ranks last among the 50–learning that black children and children with disabilities are being incarcerated for minor infractions, that their rights are being violated in the school house is infuriating. Yet not surprising. I’m no economist, but I know that the private sector–jails included–makes money through growth. And the only way the prison system can grow is with more bodies. We all know that if one has been to jail one is likely to return. If a person is imprisoned as a youth, then we can anticipate that person spending more time in jail. And what does that mean? All the parts of the prison industrial complex get paid–for longer.
The timing of the BYP Action site could not have been better. Those of us searching for ways to end atrocities like the one detailed above can become a part of the solution there. The Olympics are over. We have a few weeks before the our next cultural distraction, football, begins. Perhaps we spend our idle time during these dog days of summer taking The Pledge and/or finding ways to support our youth, whose constitutional rights are being violated in the very spaces we have often presumed were safe compared to the streets many of them walk on. Clearly, our youth are endangered–EVERYWHERE.
Taking the pledge is easier than spelling Mississippi. And maybe your help, your action will prevent other states from repeating such atrocious, state sanctioned behavior.