This year marks more than 60 years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that ended segregation in public schools. But in some places across the country, segregation is still prevelant. A public school district in Mississippi and the federal government are attempting to determine if schools in the district are complying with a desegregation order that dates back to the civil rights era.
Recently, the U.S. Justice Department has requested a judge to order the Cleveland (Miss.) Public School District “to devise and implement a desegregation plan that will immediately dismantle its one-race schools.” However, legal representation for the district is resisting, asserting that no such problem exists.
The district is located in Bolivar County, which has a black population of 65.6 percent. Prior to 1969, when the order was first made, schools on the west side of the railroad tracks that run through Cleveland were, by law, segregated white schools. Currently, students and faculty at those schools are still disproportionately white, according to Justice Department findings. Specifically, the schools on the east side of the railroad tracks, which were originally black schools, have never been integrated. In most cases, the schools on the opposite sides of the tracks are less than three miles apart.
Cleveland continued to operate its school system until 1969, when a federal court ordered the district to desegregate its schools after co-plaintiffs filed a desegregation lawsuit against six school districts in Bolivar County including the Cleveland School District, then identified as Bolivar County District No. 4, back in July 24, 1965.
During that time, the district maintained six white schools and each of those schools was limited to attendance by white pupils and staffed by white teachers and principals only. The district has a student population of 3,491 and is 68 percent black and 29 percent white. The Justice Department will not take any additional action until the district responds to their request. –torrance t. stephens, ph.d.