The U.S. Justice Department sued Mississippi state and local officials over a “school-to-prison pipeline” that violates the rights of children, especially black and disabled youths, Reuters reports. The suit alleges that police officers in Meridian, Ms., routinely arrested students who were suspended from school, even when they had no probable cause to believe the students had committed a crime. “We found that children have been incarcerated for being suspended from school for things like dress code violations or talking back to teachers,” said the Justice Department’s Roy Austin.
The police department acted as little more than a “taxi service” between schools and a juvenile detention center 80 miles away, where students did not have access to lawyers or counselors, the suit says. The government brought the suit under a 1994 federal law that bans a pattern or practice that deprives people of their rights. It was the first time the Justice Department had used the law to sue on behalf of juveniles, Austin said. In April, the department accused the juvenile justice system in Shelby County, Tn., of violating the due process rights of black children, but it said local officials cooperated to improve the system