US Education Dept. to Probe Arrests of Black Students at Jefferson Parish Schools

Marion Herbert's picture
Friday, March 23, 2012

Federal education officials said they would investigate allegations by a civil rights group that black students in Jefferson Parish are being arrested at a disproportionate rate by law-enforcement agents who patrol public schools.

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights said it would look into the complaint filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In January, the group filed a complaint on behalf of four black students and their families accusing Jefferson public schools officials of handing over student disciplinary authority to armed law-enforcement officers who aren't properly trained to work in schools.

The center wants the Education Department to make the parish school board overhaul its school arrest policies and practices. It alleges that the high rate of arrests of black youths is a "result of racism and bias."

James Meza Jr., the acting superintendent of schools in Jefferson, said the district would cooperate with the Education Department.

"We are taking this matter very seriously," he said.

The Education Department did not immediately comment on the probe.

Black youths represent roughly 46 percent of the school system's student population but account for nearly 76 percent of all school-based arrests, according to the complaint. The school system has a total enrollment of nearly 45,000 students at 88 schools.

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