ACLU: Schools too harsh - - Jackson, MS

ACLU: Schools too harsh

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

When Polly Windham's daughter was suspend from her Jones County school last Fall, she says the punishment didn't fit the crime, especially since her daughter was the victim.

"I think it's absurd," said Windham.

Windham says her daughter, at fifteen, was being bullied and when she tried to walk away that's when a fight happened. Windham says her daughter was taken to a juvenile detention center where she spent the night and was suspended three days from school. A judge eventually threw out the case.

"It was really a traumatic experience, not only for my daughter but for me," said Windham.

It's that type of situation the Mississippi ACLU is working to get rid of. Titled 'Handcuffs on Success,' a new report claims too often school districts use excessive punishment for minor and expected adolescent behavior.

"The results are alarming. They weren't surprising," said Bear Atwood, legal director with the Mississippi ACLU.

Atwood says that type of extreme discipline contributes to a school to prison pipeline.

"It doesn't mean that there shouldn't be consequences. Of course we want to teach our children to behave appropriately, but arresting them and sending them to detention centers is not the way to accomplish that," said Atwood.

Atwood is hoping policy makers pay attention to the report and create better zero tolerance policies. According to the report, Mississippi schools have higher suspension rates than neighboring states and is nearly two times higher than the national average.

"Harsh disciplinary policies do not improve safety. They do not improve behavior," said Atwood.

"Children are going to be children and there are going to be small altercations, pushing and shoving, you hit me and I hit you back; does that really classify jail," said Windham.

Late last year the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against the city of Meridian, Lauderdale County, two youth court judges, the state and two state agencies. The suit claims those entities routinely arrest and incarcerate children without procedural safeguards.

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