MTSU Cuts Ties With White Judge After Claims Of Illegally Jailing Black Kids By Making Up Bogus Laws

In the aftermath of ProPublica’s investigation into the juvenile justice system in Rutherford County, Tennessee, things have begun to fall apart for Judge Donna Davenport.

The investigation shined a light on Davenport’s 2016 policy that all children charged with crimes be processed at the local detention center. Since the article was published, several state lawmakers have called out the judge for her policy.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund has called for a federal civil rights investigation and Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) has cut ties with the judge who was an adjunct professor.

MTSU President Sidney McPhee sent an email to faculty and staff saying “Adjunct instructor Judge Donna Scott Davenport, whose actions overseeing Rutherford County Juvenile Court have recently drawn attention in national media reports, is no longer affiliated with the University.”

Under Davenport’s filter system, police would bring children they arrested, typically after a school fight or if a child was found to be a truant, straight to jail, where staff decided whether or not to detain them until their detention hearing, which could take days.

Davenport’s filter system also allowed the detention center to jail children it considered unruly, defined as “a TRUE threat.” However, there is no definition of what a TRUE threat means.

Davenport has remained quiet since the story was published but on Wednesday a Rutherford County spokeswoman shared a statement with ProPublica from the county’s Mayor Bill Ketron, who wrote,  “I share our community’s concerns over a news story that was recently released involving Rutherford County’s juvenile justice system.” Ketron’s statement added due to ongoing litigation in federal court, the county is “very limited in what can be discussed.”

Davenport who earned associates, bachelors and master’s degrees from MTSU, said in her now-deleted linkedin profile that she began working as a professor at MTSU in 1996. In 2000 she won an election for the newly created position of Rutherford County Juvenile Judge. She has since won two re-election bids.

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