Shackling Students: Why is One Mississippi School Handcuffing Bad Kids to Poles?
Yesterday, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal class action lawsuit against Jackson Public School District in Mississippi for allowing an alternative school to shackle and handcuff students for hours on end as punishment for the most minor infractions, like speaking too loudly or not wearing a belt.
At Capital City Alternative School, administration would actually shackle students to railings and poles, then walk away and leave them tied up and unsupervised like dogs. One student, shackled to a railing for the entire school day for not wearing a belt, had no choice but to eat his lunch handcuffed. Other examples of the school’s bondage punishment policy include a 15-year-old girl handcuffed to a railing for hours after greeting a friend too loudly in the hallway and a student who was shackled up for not wearing the right colored shoes.
The SPLC filed the lawsuit after the school district refused to respond to a letter asking that the school’s strict punishment policy be stopped.
"At the highest level of the district, Jackson Public Schools officials have failed to protect students from a prison-like environment where children are subject to regular shackling and chained to poles and railings as a consequence for minor, non-criminal violations of school rules." said Jody Owens, who leads the SPLC's Mississippi office. "Not only does this handcuffing policy violate the U.S. Constitution but it demonstrates a diseased school culture and a broken model of school discipline that focuses on criminalizing students at the expense of educating them."
Making matters worse, a 2009 ACLU report said Jackson’s Capital City Alternative School had an “especially punitive atmosphere” and used the shackle policy “to deliberately push out challenging and ‘undesirable’ students.”
The law suit is part of the SPLC’s education reform project Mississippi Youth Justice Project, which works to break the cycle of juvenile incarceration by making juvenile justice and education systems more responsive to children’s needs.