The school to prison pipeline is an issue all too familiar to students in Wake County, N.C. Normally when a student cuts in a lunch line, you’d expect to hear about them being sent to the back of the line or a visit to the guidance counselor. But in Wake County, N.C, you could actually end up being handcuffed.

On Wednesday, a 74 page complaint against the local school district and law-enforcement agencies was filed with the U.S. Department of Justice.  A a coalition of civil- and children’s-rights groups representing eight students alleges that the district has failed to take meaningful steps to “stem the tide of students being pushed out of school and into juvenile and criminal court systems.”

From The Huffington Post:


The students listed in the complaint include “T.S.”, a 15-year-old black student described as introverted and mild-mannered. His problems with school authorities began after he cut in line at lunch one day and drew the attention of a security officer, who grabbed his arm. When T.S. tried to pull away, the officer twisted his arm behind his back, pushed him over a 4-foot dividing wall, and led him out of the cafeteria in handcuffs, the complaint said.

T.S. was suspended for three days. When he returned to school, some fellow students assaulted him, knocking him to the ground and jumping on him, for reasons that aren’t explained in the complaint. The same officer who had handcuffed him three days earlier then pepper-sprayed his face. T.S. was handcuffed again, and ordered to appear in juvenile court and spend nine months on probation.

In another alleged incident, a 15-year-old black student with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder punched a student who had hit him and used a racial slur against him, the complaint said. He was sent to juvenile court, where he agreed to a plea deal that resulted in six months of probation, 24 hours of community service, and a juvenile delinquency record.
“It’s becoming part of the school culture,” said Jennifer Story, an attorney with Advocates for Children’s Services, one of the groups that filed the complaint. “In one case, a parent didn’t even know that her son had been handcuffed until we told her about it. The student was like, ‘It just happens all the time.’”

A spokesperson for the school system said they’re still reviewing the complaint. But the representatives for the Raleigh Police Department and the Wake County Sheriff’s Office, whose officers routinely act as the school’s security, said they have not seen the complaint.

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