Juvenile Justice

DOJ Suit Claims Miss. Town Runs 'School-to-Prison Pipeline,' Says Flatulence Can Net Jail Time


The U.S. Justice Department has filed a lawsuit claiming students in Meridian, Miss., are arrested on the recommendation of school officials and jailed for days at a time without a probable cause hearing, regardless of the severity of the alleged offense.

The suit claims authorities in Meridian and Lauderdale County are running a “school-to-prison pipeline” that mostly affects African-American and disabled children, according to the Associated Press, Reuters and a Justice Department press release. The police department acted as little more than a “taxi service” between schools and a juvenile detention center, the suit alleges.

The suit claims violations of the Fourth, Fifth and 14th amendments.

According to the suit, students who are arrested and sentenced to probation are then eligible for time in the juvenile detention center for school violations, the AP story says. That means the students can be incarcerated for “dress code infractions such as wearing the wrong color socks or undershirt, or for having shirts untucked; tardies; flatulence in class; using vulgar language; yelling at teachers; and going to the bathroom or leaving the classroom without permission.”

Roy Austin, a senior civil rights official in the Justice Department, said investigators found children have been incarcerated for infractions such as dress code violations or talking back to teachers, according to the Reuters story.

Also named in the suit are the state of Mississippi and two Lauderdale County youth court judges, Frank Coleman and Veldore “Vel” Young. The suit claims the judges refused to allow the Justice Department access to court hearings and records, the AP story says.

Lawyers for the city and county previously denied the allegations. The defendants were unavailable or didn’t immediately respond to request for comment by AP and Reuters.

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