Discrimination lawsuit launched against DeSoto County Schools

Discrimination lawsuit launched against DeSoto County Schools

DESOTO COUNTY, MS (WMC) - A group of parents claim DeSoto County Schools have been handing out harsher punishments for African-American and disabled students for over a year.

The discrimination complaints have even caught the attention of federal education investigators.

The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights has opened an investigation against DCS.

"There is a disparity in the discipline process," James Mathis said, DeSoto County Parents and Students for Justice Chairman.

Mathis said the investigation is a step in the right direction.

"They have this thing, insubordination. One teacher's idea of insubordination is not the same as the others," Mathis said.

Mathis said the proof is based on numbers. Research done by the Advancement Project, a group working with DCPSJ on the lawsuit, found that the districts' 2011 and 2012 data report showed that black students represent 32 percent of the student population, but 55 percent of all students suspended.

The research also found that black children were also suspended for longer periods of time, even for minor offenses.

The group said in all but one of the 42 schools in the county, black students were suspended at a much higher rate.

They also said 81 percent of the students with disabilities referred to law enforcement were black.

Mathis said his involvement with the organization came from the arrest of his 12-year-old grandson. He said his grandson and another student pushed each other at school and were arrested.

"I was mad as hell, because when I went to the school to ask 'what investigation did you do before you arrested these boys?'" Mathis said. "I found out none."

Some parents said they are surprised by the investigation.

"It's pretty shocking," Felicity Howard said. "We're in the 20th century; you think things are changing for the better and for it to go on like that, it's pretty sad."

DeSoto County Schools said they have been fully cooperating with OCR regarding the complaint. The district said it offers a fair and equitable education for all students.

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