Think Progress has published what I think to be a disturbing report on children in schools in Mississippi. The report stems from a recent Department of Justice lawsuit that calls into question disciplinary action against students for seemingly minor infractions. Many of these disciplinary actions go well beyond the scope of normalcy. To be honest, they teeter very closely to to criminalization of children. That would be, most infractions committed by students in Mississippi, are being treated like criminal offenses; and, their subsequent punishment seems cruel and unusual. And as you can imagine, given the history of racism as it applies to blacks, children of color appear to be getting the short end of the stick. Of course you might say I’m wrong, but check out the following and tell me.
In 2000, what began with a few students playfully throwing peanuts at one another on a school bus ended in five Black male high school students being arrested for felony assault, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. When one of the peanuts accidentally hit the white female bus driver, the bus driver immediately pulled over to call the police, who diverted the bus to the courthouse where the students were questioned.
The Sheriff commented to one newspaper, “[T]his time it was peanuts, but if we don’t get a handle on it, the next time it could be bodies.”
More recently, in 2009 in Southaven, DeSoto County, armed police officers responded to an argument between three students on a school bus by reportedly arresting a half dozen Black students, choking and tackling one Black female student, and threatening to shoot the other students on the bus between their eyes.
In 2010, in Jackson Public School District, until a lawsuit was filed, staff at one school regularly handcuffed students to metal railings in the school gymnasium and left them there for hours if they were caught not wearing a belt, among other minor infractions. For example, one 14-year-old boy was reportedly handcuffed to the railing when he wore a stocking cap to class, threw his papers on the ground, and refused to do his school work.
Interesting to note, is that Mississippi is among 19 states that still permit paddling in school. Not surprising, however, is that Mississippi has the highest percentage of students beaten by educators. And of course, as we can expect, punishment is levied in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner. As the report points out, with three times as many black students receiving out-of-school suspensions as white students. But I suppose the easy explanation would be that black children are not as well behaved as white children. Yep, that’s what someone racist would say.
Yep, talk about keeping children safe:
In Meridian, Miss., the problem of criminalizing school infractions is perpetuated by a policy of school officials calling police to discipline students. This raises serious concerns about the push to place more officers in schools in the wake of the Newtown, Ct. mass shooting, as putting more armed guards in schools has already been linked to an uptick in arrests.
I know it’s easy to dismiss this as Mississippi just being Mississippi; but, to overlook the fact that this is happening is wrong. Even worse, to ignore this practice makes one a part of the problem. Which makes me wonder if such practices in states other than Mississippi is a common and accepted occurrence. Yep, just something to think about. Yes, especially when white teens are capable of running over grown black men with trucks simply for being born the wrong color in the new millennium. Again, just something to think about. Simply put, if school officials and educators are able to treat black children this way in Mississippi schools, is it any surprise that white teens would do what they did to James Craig Anderson — a black man — a few years ago in Jackson, Mississippi?