From the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog, today!:
The Justice Department, stepping up its oversight of the juvenile justice system, has launched an investigation into whether school and law enforcement officials are targeting black students in Meridian, Miss., for unfair treatment.
The Civil Rights Division chief, Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez, disclosed the investigation in letters to local officials earlier this month. The department is investigating whether city and county authorities have a “pattern or practice” of violating the youths’ constitutional rights, specifically the 14th Amendment’s guarantees of due process and equal protection of the law, and the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.
Department officials said the allegations involve a “very tight relationship” between the schools and the juvenile court that works to put black students under law enforcement supervision. Black students cited “for very minor infractions end up in front of a juvenile judge,” who then sentences them to probation contingent on compliance with school rules, an official said. That way, “kids who’ve been out of school uniform by wearing the wrong color jacket or shirt” can be sent to juvenile hall for a probation violation. White students allegedly are treated more leniently for similar behavior, officials said.