Department of Justice, SPLC Investigating Meridian Public Schools

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Parents, students, and area residents were allowed the opportunity to voice concerns they have with the Meridian Public School District during a meeting held at EMEPA on Monday night.

"My daughter was too afraid to tell me the teacher choked her," one mother said. "But eventually she did."

"My question is why is that we're not able to contact the district superintendent," one father stated. "Who is never in. He's never going to answer the phone."

It is concerns like these and concerns over the way the Meridian Public School District chooses to punish its students that have led several agencies to investigate the district.

"So unfortunately, the severity of the crisis in the school discipline policies and practices here in Meridian have led to the Department of Justice's further investigation," SPLC attorney Shakti Belway told the audience. "They have prompted us at the Southern Poverty Law Center to investigate."

NAACP education chairman Randle Jennings says punishments are recommended by school principals and therefore are not consistent across the district. Jennings says he and other officials who organized Monday night's meeting are hoping for a more well-defined discipline plan in Meridian schools.

"Unfortunately, the African-American males have been a target," Jennings says. "We're beginning to see there may be some kind of systemic pattern. And we're just trying to dig into ramifications about what may be going on with our African-American males and what's going on with trying to educate them."

Superintendent Dr. Alvin Taylor would not comment specifically on Monday night's meeting, but released the following statement to Newscenter 11.

"While I cannot comment directly on the meeting being held tonight as I was made aware of it through the media, I can say that the Department of Justice will be conducting interviews with the Meridian Public School District administration and touring our schools this week," Taylor says. "I am pleased that they will be able to come into our schools to learn more about our district's policies and procedures and to see firsthand what is taking place in the Meridian Public Schools this year."