Cedrico Green, now 18, told The Associated Press he was in the 8th grade the first time he was sent to juvenile detention and put on probation for fighting at a bus stop in Meridian. After that, he said he was locked up numerous times for violations ranging from fights to dress code violations.
"It got to where I didn't feel comfortable at school," Green said.
His mother, Gloria Green, said the problems eased after her son got off probation and was diagnosed with attention-deficit and emotional disorders.
She said the school did not always notify her when Cedrico was taken to juvenile detention, which she estimated to be 10 to 15 times. "I almost lost hope."
Sometimes, the civil rights groups say, very young children face frightening punishment, like a 5-year-old boy in Holmes County who was escorted home in the back of a patrol car for violating the school's dress code. The report says the school required black shoes and his mother had tried to use a black marker to cover red and white symbols.
"When she followed up with her son's principal, he justified his actions by telling her that her son needed to be 'taught a lesson,'" the report says.
The defendants have denied the allegations in court records. The city of Meridian said in a court filing that it asked for examples of specific violations, but only received "bare bones" conclusions with no examples.
This city also said that it told the Justice Department weeks before the lawsuit was filed that the police department amended its policy so that officers would only respond to calls from the school for felonies, physical violence, weapons, illegal drugs or a judge's order. Officers are no longer supposed to transport a juvenile from school grounds unless the officer witnessed the offense.
Lauderdale County youth court judges Frank Coleman and Veldore Young also denied the allegations, saying they never revoke a student's probation or parole for tardiness or absences alone and that they follow Mississippi law.
The defendants in the lawsuit are the city of Meridian, Lauderdale County, the two Lauderdale County Youth Court judges, the Mississippi Department of Human Services and DHS's Division of Youth Services.
The Meridian Public School District is not named as a defendant, but the lawsuit says incarceration is used as a "medium for school discipline."
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