Public schools in Jackson, Mississippi, will no longer handcuff students to poles or other objects and will train staff at its alternative school on better methods of discipline.
Mississippi’s second-largest school district agreed Friday to the settlement with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which had sued over the practice of shackling students to a pole at the district’s Capital City Alternative School.
What can you say about news like that? Given that Jackson’s population is seventy-nine percent black, it’s impossible not to suspect that race plays a large role in that story. But aren’t some other factors at work, too?. . .
The Mississippi lawsuit 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. It said staffers routinely restrained students for hours for offenses as minor as dress code violations, forcing them to eat lunch while chained to a stair railing and to shout for help when they needed to go to the bathroom.
The more schools obsess over enforcing behavioral “expectations,” the more frustrated and angry school staff will naturally become with the kids who don’t comply. It’s only a quick step to justifying harsher and harsher treatment of the kids: if they choose not to follow the rules, they get what they deserve. It is a recipe for creating an adversarial, inhumane school environment. It may find some of its worst expression in Jackson, Mississippi, but it’s happening at some level across the country, including in Iowa City.