Southern Poverty Law Center

Teaching Tolerance recognizes 76 schools for Mix It Up at Lunch Day efforts

At Eastwood Knolls International School, students began their celebration of Mix It Up at Lunch Day with a small – but important – strip of paper. The color of the paper determined where a student would sit for lunch at the El Paso, Texas, school. After the students at a table got to know each other over lunch, they were asked to write one new thing they learned about a tablemate on the strip of paper. The strips of paper then were linked together to form a chain that was displayed in the...
Southern Poverty Law Center

Mississippi takes historic step to reform criminal justice system

As the managing attorney for the SPLC’s Mississippi office, I’ve seen the terrible toll the state’s broken criminal justice system has taken on its communities. The state has the shameful distinction of having the second-highest incarceration rate in the nation – ranking behind only Louisiana, according to the Department of Justice. The last decade has seen Mississippi’s prison population grow by 17 percent to more than 22,000 prisoners last year.  Many prisoners aren’t hardened, violent...
Southern Poverty Law Center

Stories from the field: Alabama’s school ‘choice’ law offers no real choice for many disadvantaged children

When I accepted a position as a community outreach advocate with the Southern Poverty Law Center, I knew it meant the opportunity to be part of “big things.” Just weeks after I started, standing in a dirt parking lot in a rural Black Belt community, I had absolutely no doubt that I had been right. Advocating for the children our elected officials seem so willing to leave behind was this “big thing.”  Fellow advocate Cindy Escoto and I had spent the first of many days over the summer speaking...
Southern Poverty Law Center

Teaching Tolerance publishes guide for teaching the civil rights movement

In the wake of a report that found state expectations for teaching the civil rights movement remain woefully inadequate, the SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance project today issued a guide designed to help teachers and school leaders ensure their lessons about the movement are robust and meaningful to students. The March Continues: Five Essential Practices for Teaching the Civil Rights Movement is a best practices guide intended to provoke thought and innovation in teaching the movement. It offers...
Southern Poverty Law Center

SPLC settlement helps Alabama school district cut suspensions 30 percent

Sammy remembers when he was suspended from high school for more than 50 days. He didn’t get into a fight or threaten another student. His shirt was untucked. Earlier in the day, his principal noticed his shirt wasn’t completely tucked in the back. “He wrote my name down and he told me that if he saw me again he was going to suspend me,” Sammy said. Later, the student was tucking in his shirt as he left the gym. The principal spotted him. “He saw me across the courtyard, and he just said he got...
Southern Poverty Law Center

SPLC testifies about worker abuse in U.S. meatpacking, poultry plants

The human rights of U.S. meat and poultry workers are being routinely violated in plants where workers suffer crippling injuries because of excessive work speeds allowed by the federal government, the SPLC testified today before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). During his testimony at an IACHR hearing in Washington, SPLC staff attorney Tom Fritzsche called for the government to enact work-speed protections and to abandon a new regulation proposed by the U.S. Department of...
Southern Poverty Law Center

Whistleblower’s courage led to SPLC lawsuit, juvenile detention center reforms

Most people never see what goes on behind the walls of a juvenile detention facility. But that changed for residents of Hattiesburg, Miss., in 2011 when a local TV station aired video footage taken by security cameras inside the Forrest County Juvenile Detention Center. As the grainy images flickered across TV screens, it was obvious why county officials had taken legal action in a failed attempt to keep the videos secret. Viewers saw a child hogtied on a bed. They watched a burly guard slam a...
Southern Poverty Law Center

African-American children are bearing brunt of misguided school discipline policies

I hope you saw the news today about important new Department of Education data on the crisis that’s playing out in our public schools. Here’s the bottom line: African-American children are three times more likely to be suspended and expelled from school than their white peers. Of course, this comes as no surprise. We’ve been fighting the “school-to-prison pipeline” for years, bringing case after case to reform “zero tolerance” policies that amount to a war on our nation’s children. Outrageously...
Southern Poverty Law Center

Stories from the field: Alabama city operates modern-day 'debtors' prison'

I was preparing to leave the municipal courtroom in Montgomery, Ala., when the bailiff announced that the inmates were being brought in. A handful of men entered the courtroom. Handcuffed and shackled, they shuffled to a long bench and sat down. One by one, they were called before the municipal judge. None was appointed an attorney. Most had been arrested for warrants relating to unpaid traffic tickets. The judge asked if they had the money to pay the balance. Most didn’t. When they couldn’t...
Southern Poverty Law Center

Students with disabilities encounter discrimination in New Orleans schools

Kelly Fischer’s hopes were quickly dashed last fall. She was attending a High School Fair in New Orleans, a chance for parents to meet representatives from the city’s high schools and learn more about them. The Crescent City’s school system, which has been touted as a model for the rest of the nation, offers school choice. The fair seemed like the perfect opportunity to find a school for her blind and autistic son, Noah, to attend next year. But several representatives discouraged her from...

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