Public schools in Jackson, Mississippi, will no longer be allowed to handcuff students to poles or other objects, under a settlement with the Southern Poverty Law Center reached in U.S. District Court.
Thanks to almost 15,000 Care2 activists who signed our petition, the Jackson Public School District may no longer use this horribly inappropriate punishment.
The petition was sponsored by Alternet, who documented that a student at Capital City Alternative School in Jackson was handcuffed to a railing for en entire day for not wearing a belt, and another student was handcuffed to a railing for hours for greeting her friend too loudly in the hallway.
The suit was filed in June 2011 by Jeanette Murry on behalf of her then-16-year-old son, who has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
The settlement, approved by U.S. District Judge Tom Lee, says all district employees will stop handcuffing students younger than 13, and can only handcuff older students for crimes. In no case will employees shackle a student to a fixed object such as a railing, a pole, a desk or a chair.
“It’s apparent there were severe problems that we hope now are being addressed and will be alleviated,” Lee told lawyers in court Friday, just before signing the settlement order.
Jody Owens, director of the Mississippi office of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the Capital City Alternatives school in Mississippi’s largest district must immediately stop handcuffing students, a practice used to punish even such things as dress-code violations.
“The focus should be education, not incarceration and it’s tantamount to child abuse when children are handcuffed to railings for something as simple as not having the appropriate belt or inappropriate shoe strings,” Owens said.
The way students had been disciplined in the school was abusive, she said.
The ruling requires the school to change its approach in dealing with emotionally challenged students. The school was ordered to conduct a “climate assessment” that includes students, parents and teachers, as well as a mandate that all teachers be trained to deal with students with emotional and behavioral management problems, Owens said.
Handcuffing is just another form of corporal punishment, a form of behavior management that is thriving in Mississippi. Hitting children at school is still legal in 19 states, with Mississippi and Texas accounting for about 40% of instances nationwide last year.
Corporal punishment should be abolished entirely, but at least the children of Jackson have won the right to some freedom.
Thank you, Care2 members!
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