Education advocates looked at ways to plug the School to Prison Pipeline that they say is destroying the lives of minority students in the state. U.S. Congressman Bennie Thompson held a forum and panel discussion on the crisis at Tougaloo College.
Educators, U.S. Justice Department officials, the NAACP, parents and students had an open dialogue about a problem which Thompson said is vastly affecting minority children in the state.
The Tougaloo lecture hall was packed with concerned citizens.
Official say recent school shootings have developed a zero tolerance policy in school districts that are sending children of color to juvenile detention and prison at an alarming rate.
The NAACP filed a lawsuit against the Meridian School System after students were being arrested by police for school violations.
"Begin the process of elevating the conversation," said Congressman Thompson. "We want people who are involved in education and education advocates to say what it is we can do to make sure our children stay in school."
"The school district has to change their policy to end the disproportionate suspensions, expulsions and arrests of students in the Meridian School District," said panelist Nasombi Lambright, secretary with the Jackson NAACP. "Students being arrested for minor infractions in the school system such as talking back to a teacher and so this resulted in a disproportionate number of young people being sent to the youth court system for minor school related infractions in Meridian."
"Parents need to take this issue head on to teach their children right from wrong. You just can't expect the educators to do their part," said student panelist and Tougaloo College Senior Class President Rochelle Williams. "The parents have to do their part to teach students at home."
The Meridian Public School System is currently under a consent decree.
The event was an opportunity for the public to learn more about the problems that lead to student suspensions and expulsions and offered parents resources needed to avoid them.
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