MS Parents Urge Federal Intervention in County Schools due to Persistent Racial Discrimination - Advancement Project - Advancement Project

MS Parents Urge Federal Intervention in County Schools due to Persistent Racial Discrimination

New Letter to U.S. Department of Education Documents Egregious Discipline Disparities

DESOTO COUNTY, Miss. – Today, DeSoto County Parents and Students for Justice (DCPSJ) along with Advancement Project, a multi-racial civil rights organization, filed a new supporting letter documenting the continuation of discriminatory discipline practices in DeSoto County Schools (DCS). The letter, submitted to the U.S. Department of Education, comes months after the Department opened a formal investigation in response to the complaint filed on behalf of students and parents in 2015.

“The lack of action by DCS in correcting discipline disparities shows that it neither sees nor understands the crisis occurring in our schools,” said James Mathis, Chairperson of DeSoto County Parents and Students for Justice. “The district continues to suspend, expel, and arrest Black students and students with disabilities at disproportionate rates, fueling a deadly school to prison pipeline that robs our children and grandchildren of a quality education. Since our initial complaint, these disparities have only grown worse and that’s why we need federal intervention.”

New data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) reveals that from 2012 to 2014, the suspension rate of Black students increased from 55% to 59%, despite the fact that overall suspensions in the district declined. During the 2013-2014 school year, Black students made up 33% of the student population, but were 59% of all students suspended. The supplemental letter, containing new stories from students and families, urges the U.S. Department of Education to:

  • Require DCS to select a student and parent advocate or ombudsman
  • Require all DCS staff to complete anti-racism and implicit bias training
  • Require DCS to hire a consultant to reduce suspensions and discipline disparities
  • Require DCS to regularly collect and analyze data to determine the breadth of discriminatory policies and practices and general harassment

“Why should Black parents have to teach their children how to respond to repeated racial slurs from students, hostile staff, and unfair punishment from the district?” said Paris Marion, a DeSoto County Parent. “Parents are literally sending our kids to live with relatives in other states because our children have been so deeply traumatized by their experiences in DCS. It’s absolutely wrong and the steps the district has taken are completely inadequate.”

DeSoto County Schools revised the district’s student code of discipline for the 2016-2017 school year. The revision came after DCPSJ and Advancement Project filed a federal Title VI complaint showing a districtwide pattern of more harshly disciplining Black students, particularly Black students with disabilities, for less severe offenses than White students. U.S. Department of Education officials conducted a site visit in DeSoto County in December 2015.

Despite new revisions, the code fails to clearly define subjective infractions like “insubordination” and contains new, highly-problematic provisions that allow schools to suspend students for minor code violations.

“The revised code continues to be grounded in exclusionary, overly punitive policies that fail to address the systemic racism that prompted DeSoto County families to file a federal complaint in the first place,” said Jadine Johnson, Staff Attorney at Advancement Project. “We need federal intervention and oversight to ensure students and families are treated fairly and with dignity.”


Advancement Project is a multi-racial civil rights organization. Founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1999, Advancement Project was created to develop and inspire community-based solutions based on the same high quality legal analysis and public education campaigns that produced the landmark civil rights victories of earlier eras.


Advancement Project and Tenants and Workers United React to Alexandria City Public School Board’s Refusal to Fully Fund Holistic Supports for Students

Washington, DC — On February 16th, 2023, the Alexandria City Public School Board (ACPS) voted to approve a proposed budget for the 2024 school year that includes only minor increases in funding for student mental health supports and restorative practices. At the same time, the Board voted to add funding for security guards and equipment and adopted a recommendation that the city fund school police. This is the latest step to reverse the City Council’s 2021 commitment to permanently remove police from schools. “Though we are disappointed by this decision, the fight continues,” said Evelin Urrutia,…

Read More
Advancement Project and Movimiento Poder Urge Denver Public Schools Board of Education to Vote Against Closing Schools

DENVER, COLORADO – Advancement Project and Movimiento Poder are urging Denver Public Schools (DPS) Board of Education to vote against the closure of the now 5 elementary and middle schools in their November 17 board meeting. According to DPS, these schools are slated for closure due to declining enrollment.   “Following a process that was completely devoid of transparency and was not community driven, Denver Public Schools has proposed to close 5 of its neighborhood public schools – a change from merely a few days ago when there were 10 schools…

Read More
Advancement Project National Office Response to Gun Control Bill

WASHINGTON, DC — In response to the gun control bill signed into law today, executive director Judith Browne Dianis at Advancement Project National Office issued this statement: “While there is an urgent need to address gun violence in the United States, policy solutions must aim to create truly safe, supportive and welcoming school environments that protect all students. This bill, among other issues, allocates at least $300 million to expand the school policing infrastructure through increased school hardening and surveillance — even though we know police in…

Read More
Police Don’t Keep Students Safe, Even During School Shootings

National Campaign for Police Free Schools, Texas Appleseed Demand Student Supports and an End to School Policing Washington, DC – In response to calls to increase police presence in schools, following the massacre of 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas,  spokespeople from the National Campaign for Police Free Schools, co-convened by the Advancement Project National Office, Alliance for Educational Justice, and Texas Appleseed, issued the following statement: “Our hearts are with the families who lost loved ones in Tuesday’s mass shooting, as well as the…

Read More
Advancement Project – National Office Reaction to Montgomery County School District Reinstatement of Police Officers Into Public Schools

Montgomery County, MD –  Montgomery County Public Schools and the Montgomery County Police Department announced a new agreement that formally brings armed police officers back into Montgomery County Public Schools. While the new agreement (referred to as “CEO 2.0”) was executed on April 19th, it was not announced to the public until April 26th. In response, Judith Browne Dianis, Executive Director of the Advancement Project, a national civil rights and education advocacy group, released this statement: “This decision is a devastating betrayal to the students of Montgomery County, their families, and…

Read More
National organizations pen letter to Montgomery County Council, Board of Education in support of removing police from schools

Following recent police assaults of young people in Florida and New York, the call for #PoliceFreeSchools in Montgomery County is emphatic

Read More
National organizations, global law firm partner to take steps toward securing quality education for students of color

Legal action taken in U.S. Court of Appeals works to ensure that students of color receive a meaningful, quality education that allows them to thrive

Read More
Arnold & Porter Partners with Advancement Project National Office to Address Equity in Education

Washington, DC — December 17, 2020 — Arnold & Porter and Advancement Project National Office announced today that they have established a three-year partnership to address systemic inequalities in the United States education system. The partnership will support the Advancement Project National Office’s mission to fight systemic racism in schools, which continues to disproportionately impact students of color, as well as low-income students. “All children deserve equitable access to high quality education,” said Arnold & Porter firm Chairman Richard Alexander. “We look forward to partnering with the Advancement Project National Office on a range of initiatives from expanding our pro…

Read More
Advancement Project National Office Supports New Counseling Not Criminalization Bill

Media Contact: Gina Physic, 202-505-4659, [email protected] Lawmakers today introduced a bill to help schools cut ties with police. Under the Counseling Not Criminalization Act, Federal funding would be prohibited from being used to hire, train, or keep law enforcement in schools. In addition, the bill would create a $2.5 billion grant program to replace police in schools with school psychologists, social workers, and other staff who are suited to help support mental health and provide trauma-informed services to young people.  The Senate version of the Counseling Not Criminalization Act was…

Read More
Advancement Project National Office Celebrates National Cousin’s Day!

Did you know July 24 is a national holiday? Advancement Project National Office uplifts National Cousins Day today, which celebrates the extended family members we know and love – our cousins. During this sustained moment of protest and unrest across the country, as well as calls for truth, racial justice and reconciliation, it’s time to lean into the honest perspectives our cousins often provide. When it comes to race, our family can harbor views and beliefs that are ill-informed, ignorant, and damaging.  Because of this, conversations around race can…

Read More