DeSoto County Schools discrimination lawsuit taken to federal level

DeSoto County Schools discrimination lawsuit taken to federal level
A chart showing the difference in discipline among races. (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
A chart showing the difference in discipline among races. (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)

DESOTO COUNTY, MS (WMC) - The DeSoto County School System is facing new pressure after allegations of discrimination when disciplining students.

A group has already filed a lawsuit against the DeSoto County School District, but they said nothing has changed since filing that suit to stop the discrimination against minority and disabled students. As a result, they are now taking their complaints to the federal government.

"They more or less turned a deaf ear to us," James Mathis said.

Mathis, a member of the DeSoto County Parents and Students for Justice group, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Educations Civil Rights Office in connection with the continuing lawsuit against the schools.

"Give them a little more insight on what's happening since we filed the lawsuit. That nothing has changed," Mathis said.

It's the newest development in a three year battle.

Mathis' group said even though minority students make up about 33 percent of the school district, 55 percent of suspensions are for minority students.

Additionally, they said there are problems with the treatment of parents and students.

"Administrator said to a parent, 'it's not like we're going to hang them,'" Mathis said.

In the suit, they have called for consistent disciplinary policies, cultural sensitivity training, and more open communication between the schools and parents.

In a statement, DeSoto County Schools said:

"DeSoto County School District has cooperated fully with the Office of Civil Rights and will continue to do so. We cannot discuss specific discipline cases, but our school district is dedicated to treating every student with equity and fairness."

Minnie Pryor, a parent that just moved to DeSoto County from Florida, said she hasn't heard of any discrimination in the school system and she is hoping it will stay that way for her children.

"I did the research before I chose this school," Pryor said. "I don't want to worry about my child getting treated different."

Mathis said he knows big changes take time, however, there are some things that can and should be addressed right away.

"The treatment of our parents, the treatment of our students: this can be addressed now," Mathis said.

Copyright 2016 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.