The litigation seeks remedies for violations of the Fourth, Fifth and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The complaint alleges that the defendants help to operate a school-to-prison pipeline in which the rights of children in Meridian are repeatedly and routinely violated. As a result, children in Meridian have been systematically incarcerated for allegedly committing minor offenses, including school disciplinary infractions, and are punished disproportionately without due process of law. The students most affected by this system are African-American children and children with disabilities. The practices that regularly violate the rights of children in Meridian include:
Lauderdale County does not consistently afford children meaningful representation by an attorney during the juvenile justice process, including in preparation for and during detention, adjudication and disposition hearings.
“ The department is bringing this lawsuit to ensure that all children are treated fairly and receive the fullest protection of the law,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “ It is in all of our best interests to ensure that children are not incarcerated for alleged minor infractions, and that police and courts meet their obligations to uphold children’s constitutional rights.”
This investigation was conducted by the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section, working in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi. The Civil Rights Division’s Educational Opportunities Section also has a long-standing school desegregation case against the Meridian Public School District. The district is currently working cooperatively with the department to resolve issues in that case.