Johnson Symposium Slides - Loyola University Chicago

It’s Our Problem: Examining the
Impact of the School-to-Prison
Pipeline through a Local Lens
Elissa Johnson, Esq.
Discipline in Schools: Moving Beyond Zero Tolerance
Children’s Legal Rights Journal Symposium
Loyola University Chicago School of Law
October 17, 2014
Who is Getting Caught in the School-toPrison Pipeline?
• African American students make up 18% of the school-aged population, but
46% of the students who have been suspended multiple times
• Students with disabilities make up about 9% of the school-aged population,
but are about 32% of the students in juvenile detention centers
Source: Teaching Tolerance, School to Prison Pipeline, No. 43 Spring 2013, available at
The Consequences of the School-to-Prison
• Increased drop-out rates and/or risk of falling further behind in
• Interaction with law enforcement and court system
• Exposure to trauma/abuse in facilities by staff
or peers
• Separation from family and community
• Transfer to adult court and extended incarceration
Narrowing the Focus: Meridian, Mississippi
A snapshot of the Meridian School District Population:
86% African American; 12% white; 1% Asian; 1%
83% of students receive free or reduced lunch, compared
to 71% of students in Mississippi
13% of students have been determined to be eligible for
special education services
Source: U.S. v. City Of Meridian et al. Complaint, available at
A Very Local Problem:
Meridian’s School-to-Prison Pipeline
From August 2006 to December 2009, all of the students expelled and
referred to law enforcement from MPSD were African-American, and
96% of the students who were suspended were African-American.
Students were routinely suspended from school for non-criminal
infractions such as dress code violations, being tardy, use of profanity or
disruptive behavior.
Students who were suspended and on probation were put in detention for
the duration of the suspension, including weekends. While in detention,
students were subjected to chemical restraints, excessive use of force,
and excessive cell confinement.
Source: U.S. v. City Of Meridian et al. Complaint, available at
Meridian’s School-to-Prison Pipeline Cont’d
The District’s rate of suspensions for more than ten days and
suspensions of students receiving special education services were
approximately seven times the rate for Mississippi schools. .
The Youth Court’s failure to comply with constitutional standards led
to incarceration without probable cause and ineffective assistance of
Prolonged placement in the District’s alternative school due to repeated
suspensions and time in detention center for nonviolent conduct.
Source: U.S. v. City Of Meridian et al. Complaint, available at
Attacking the Unjust Systems
E.W. et al. v. Lauderdale County, MS (2009)
• Lawsuit challenging the conditions of confinement at local
juvenile detention center
• Settlement Agreement reached in June 2010
• Detention Center closed in February 2012
Barnhardt and U.S. v. Meridian Municipal School District (1965)
• Desegregation case from 1960s
• Investigation Opened
• Consent Decree entered in May 2013
U.S. v. City of Meridian, et al. (2012)
• Lawsuit alleging unconstitutional practices by police department
and youth court judges and employees
• Ongoing Litigation
Contact Information
Elissa Johnson, Staff Attorney
Southern Poverty Law Center
(601) 948-8882
[email protected]

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