No more handcuffing at Capital City Alternative School - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

No more handcuffing at Capital City Alternative School

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Last year, 19-year-old Drodriguez Williams spoke out being handcuffed one day at Capital City Alternative School for having an untucked shirt.

"When you get uncuffed it's 5 or 6 in the afternoon. After school. Sometimes you don't even get to eat lunch," he told us.

In her deposition, Principal Marie Harris admitted that some of her staff members used handcuffs to shackle students. She said the practice was done in good faith, and for student safety. But that's not how the Southern Poverty Law Center sees it.

"Most disturbing I think is the fact that the principal of the school admitted she personally developed this policy almost ten years ago, and was able to continue to handcuff kids to fixed objects for several years without any type of oversight," says Vanessa Carroll, Senior Staff Attorney for SPLC.

The lawsuit, brought on behalf of five students, is now settled. A long list of reforms are set forth for Capital City Alternative and other JPS schools. The district must bar the use of fixed restraints on students, revise the student restraint policy, and implement a social-emotional learning curriculum.

All Capital City Alternative employees must undergo extensive training from the Crisis Prevention Institute on behavior management, verbal de-escalation, and other matters.

In addition, a site council must be established, consisting of JPS students, parents, the JPS Director of Social Work, a mental health professional, a child advocacy representative, JPS security personnel, and school faculty. The council will meet monthly to oversee the reforms.

Each remedy JPS has to take is outlined in a letter, which will be sent to every student that attends Capital City Alternative School.

Carroll says the lawsuit could have been avoided. A letter was sent to JPS last year urging the reforms, but the District didn't make the changes.

"We didn't expect the District to try to defend what really are indefensible, unconstitutional acts," Carroll says.

The settlement requirements are expected to be met in a timely manner.

"If it is determined the District is not compliant with the terms of the settlement agreement, we'll take adequate (legal) action back in court," says Jody Owens, SPLC Director. 

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