Meridian Public School Superintendent Dr. Alvin Taylor says allegations that the district is unfairly targeting students when it comes to discipline simply are not true.
Taylor tells Newscenter 11 with 82% of the student body in the district being African-American, claims made by the NAACP that African-American males are specifically being targeted are also false.
"You're talking about targeting almost 50% of the student population," Taylor says. "So that allegation is absolutely false."
Taylor says he is confident the Justice Department's investigation will prove that to be untrue. During a Monday night meeting hosted by the NAACP and Southern Poverty Law Center, many also voiced concerns about the district's zero tolerance policy saying it is too harsh. Taylor says while the policy is mandated by state law, it only applies to three specific instances.
"Weapons, drugs, and severe violent acts," he points out.
Taylor tells us complaints of unfair discipline in the district date back to 1998 and that most incidents occurred prior to him becoming superintendent last summer.
"That was the whole reason I was brought here to change the district," he explains. "And now that we have changed it, there are still pockets and segments of the community that still want to hold on to what used to be."
However, the NAACP says it is committed to ensuring everyone is treated equally and fairly. As for claims made by one parent on Monday night that Taylor is never available to hear concerns from people in the district, he says there is a procedure that must be followed in order for that to happen.
"I run a district that has 6,300 students and 1,100 employees," Taylor points out. "For someone to think that you can just walk into my door unannounced without following the chain of command is ambitious at least."
Department of Justice officials arrived in Meridian on Tuesday morning to begin touring area schools. They are expected to meet with Dr. Taylor on Thursday or Friday.