Less than three months after the Justice Department sued Meridian, Ms., after finding that school students there were routinely arrested without probable cause, a report by a group of civil rights organizations says that “overly harsh school disciplinary policies” are common throughout the state, the New York Times reports. The report found that in one Mississippi school district, 33 of every 1,000 children were arrested or referred to juvenile detention centers; that in another, such referrals included second and third graders; and that in another, only 4 percent of the law enforcement referrals were for felony-level behavior, the most often cited offense being “disorderly conduct.”
“The school-to-prison pipeline is nothing new in Mississippi, and it is certainly not unique to Meridian,” the report says. It described episodes in which a child was taken home by police for wearing shoes that violated the dress code, and a school where misbehaving students were handcuffed for infractions as minor as not wearing a belt. The report said Mississippi imposed out-of-school suspensions at a rate more than one and a half times the national average. In several districts, the rate was more than 9 times the national average. The report comes as lawmakers in many states are considering plans to place armed officers or guards in every school, a measure that has gained traction since the shootings in Newtown, Ct.