Several school systems in Mississippi where black students face disproportionate rates of suspensions and expulsions are already starting to address the problems cited in a report released on Thursday, but more changes are needed, civil rights advocates say.
Leaders with the NAACP, the ACLU, the Mississippi Coalition for the Prevention of Schoolhouse to Jailhouse, and the Advancement Project, met Thursday with state lawmakers to present a report entitled “Handcuffs on Success” examining what they call an “extreme discipline crisis in Mississippi.”
In a national media conference call that included BlackAmericaweb.com, Derrick Johnson, Mississippi state president of the NAACP said: “Some changes are being made in the local school systems, but more changes will be needed through the legislature.”
In Jackson, Mississippi, the superintendent has appointed an administrator to take a serious look at the policies and the impact of the high number of school suspensions, Johnson said.
Leeson Taylor II, who began serving as superintendent of Greenville schools in May 2012, said the report is extensive and offers a well-detailed summary of disciplinary incidents and actions taken in Mississippi public schools and his administration is working to correct some of its problems.
“Since our transition, we have implemented innovative techniques that deal with negating the behavior while not removing the child,” Taylor said in a prepared statement. “We have seen a dramatic decline in our number of incidents, referrals, suspensions and arrests. We’re also revising and looking at ways to enhance our alternative school. We want to maintain and keep children in school, not out of school.”
The report showed that in Mississippi, a Southern state plagued in years past by racism, black students were suspended from school at a rate nine times the national average. It also showed that for every one white child suspended from a Mississippi public school, three blacks were suspended.
The trend contributes to the state’s high dropout rate, which is the sixth highest in the country , civil rights leaders said during the conference call.