U.S. Dept. of Education investigating possible discrimination in DeSoto County Schools

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DESOTO COUNTY, Miss. -- The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is investigating DeSoto County Schools for possible discrimination.

A complaint filed against the district claims about 57 percent of DCS students are white and about 34 percent are African-American. It claims disciplinary measures are more harshly applied to black students.

"That there's equality across the board for all students, not only black students, but for students with disabilities," said James Mathis, who chairs the DeSoto County Parents and Students for Justice. He said the goal behind the group's complaint is simple.

Tuesday, Mathis and others dialed into a conference call with WREG to discuss the investigation into DCS.

"My son was suspended, placed in in-school suspension and placed on probation, charged with vandalism acts which threaten the safety of others, all because the door of the bathroom stall he was using completely unhinged and fell," said parent Cassandra Norwood.

A spokesperson with the U.S. Department of Education told WREG in a statement:

"OCR currently has two investigations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 open at the DeSoto County Schools. Both involve possible discrimination on the basis of race in the administration of discipline. The first probe was launched on July 22, 2014, and the second on March 10, 2016. Because they are on-going investigations, however, OCR cannot provide additional details or case-specific information."

DCPSJ, in hand with the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization in Washington, D.C., filed the complaint last April.

"Overall, black students are 2.5 times more likely to be suspended than their white peers," said Advancement Project Staff Attorney Jadine Johnson.

The information is based on OCR data from 2011 and 2012, some of the most recent information that is publicly available.

DeSoto County Schools told WREG in a statement:

"This is not a new complaint. For over a year, our school district has been cooperating fully with OCR regarding this complaint. We have not heard from OCR since December. The DeSoto County School district offers a fair and equitable education for all students."

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