Jessica Williams, NOLA, May 8, 2015
African-American students are disproportionately arrested and subjected to discrimination in Jefferson Parish public schools, even moreso now than three years ago, according to a complaint the Southern Poverty Law Center filed Thursday (May 7) on behalf of four black students. The new information is a supplement to the law center’s 2012 complaint, which also accused Jefferson of discrimination.
New data show that in the 2013-14 academic year, black students comprised 80 percent of all school-based arrests and law enforcement referrals, even though they made up only about 42 percent of Jefferson’s enrollment. Three years ago, 76 percent of all arrested students were black, compared to 46 of enrollment.
The Jefferson system is “aware of and . . . very concerned by these allegations,” spokeswoman Elizabeth Branley said Friday. “We pledge to work closely with those agencies involved to quickly resolve any issues that we identify. We are committed to ensuring that our students have a safe, healthy environment and are treated equably at all schools.”
The school system has contracted with the Sheriff’s Office to staff middle and high school campuses and detain, question, search and arrest students when needed, law center attorneys said.
The law center filed its initial complaint with U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, which later launched an investigation. That office has not announced the outcome. The attorneys filed Thursday’s supplement with both that office and the U.S. Justice Department.