School District Accused of Harsh Discipline

     JACKSON, Miss. (CN) — Officials at a Mississippi alternative school routinely handcuffed students to fixed objects where they were forced to eat lunch and unable to use the restroom for extended periods of time, a former student claims in court.
     In a lawsuit filed in Mississippi Federal Court last week, Drodriquez Williams claims that students disciplined for non-criminal infractions at Jackson, Mississippi’s Capital City Alternative School, including dress code violations and verbal insubordination, were shackled to the gym’s railing and could be heard by faculty “crying out that the handcuffs were too tight and asking to have them loosened.”
     The lawsuit revives allegations that have been dogging the Jackson Public School District and its reform school since at least 2011.
     Williams, 24, said he was subjected to the “unreasonable and excessive restraints” during his stints at the school, where some of the district’s troubled students grades 4-12 are sent.
     He sued the Jackson Public School District, its board of trustees, and Superintendent Dr. Cedric Gray May 4.
     “CCAS students were frequently handcuffed to railings located in or near the gym on the CCAS campus. The gym was in an area of the school that was isolated from others, and students who were handcuffed there were left unsupervised, unmonitored, and alone for hours at a time,” his complaint states.
     Williams says he began sporadically attending the alternative school during his freshman year when he was 14-years-old.
     “During the initial year of Williams’ attendance at CCAS, he was illegally detained and/or seized on multiple occasions by being handcuffed to a fixed object (the railing in the gym area) pursuant to the policy, custom, and practices described in this complaint.
     “Williams was also illegally detained and/or seized on other occasions during his subsequent years at CCAS,” the complaint states.
     The school district in 2012 settled an injunctive relief class action filed a year earlier. The settlement prohibited the use of “fixed restraints” and included other reforms for disciplining pupils. It did not preclude any individual damages claims.
     Williams says he suffered constitutional and civil rights violations “as a result of the handcuffing customs, practices, and procedures at CCAS.”
     He is represented by Graham Carner of Jackson, Mississippi.
     The U.S. Department of Education said in a 2012 report that physical restraint or seclusion should not be used in schools except in situations where the child’s behavior poses imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others.
     It warned that restraining students has led to their deaths in some cases, and that the use of restraints has not been shown to reduce students’ bad behavior on campuses.

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