Lawsuit Alleges School Handcuffed Students to Railings

JACKSON, Mo. — The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal class action lawsuit against the Jackson Public School District for reportedly allowing an alternative school to shackle and handcuff students to railings as a punishment. Allegedly, the students were shackled for hours at a time for school uniform violations and other infractions.

The lawsuit was filed after the district did not respond to a letter asking it the end the punishments, according to a press release from the Southern Poverty Law Center. The shackled students, according to the release, are left unsupervised and are denied classroom instruction.

“At the highest level of the district, Jackson Public Schools officials have failed to protect students from a prison-like environment where children are subject to regular shackling and chained to poles and railings as a consequence for minor, non-criminal violations of school rules,” said Jody Owens, who leads the SPLC’s Mississippi office. “Not only does this handcuffing policy violate the U.S. Constitution but it demonstrates a diseased school culture and a broken model of school discipline that focuses on criminalizing students at the expense of educating them.”

The specific allegations in the complaint include:

  • A     15-year-old female student was handcuffed to a railing for several hours     after she was accused of greeting her friend too loudly in the school     hallway.
  • Another     student was shackled to a railing for an entire school day because the     student did not wear a belt. The student was even forced to eat lunch     while handcuffed.
  • One     student spent an entire school day handcuffed and shackled to a railing     because he wore shoes that school officials deemed to be the wrong color.

A 2009 ACLU report documented that Jackson’s Capital City Alternative School had an “especially punitive atmosphere,” enforcing “its zero tolerance policy ‘to the utmost degree,’” and using this policy “to deliberately push out challenging and ‘undesirable’ students.” According to publicly available data, the Jackson Public School District suspends children at twice the rate of the national average, according to the press release.

Read the press release.

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