In some schools, students who cut in line at the cafeteria might be scolded or sent to a guidance counselor. In Wake County, N.C., they risk getting handcuffed and thrown in jail, according to a complaint against the local school district and law-enforcement agencies filed Wednesday with the U.S. Department of Justice.

In the 74- page complaint, a coalition of civil- and children’s-rights groups representing eight students alleges that the district has failed to take meaningful steps to “stem the tide of students being pushed out of school and into juvenile and criminal court systems.”

Over the past five years, the district’s use of law enforcement officers to deal with disciplinary issues has landed thousands of students in court, keeping them out of school, according to the complaint.

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