45-year-old dchool desegregation case closed in Mississippi district

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A federal judge on Tuesday signed an order dismissing a 45-year-old racial desegregation case against a school district in Wayne County, Mississippi.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi approved the joint motion to remove oversight in the case filed by the Department of Justice and the Wayne County School District in Mississippi, according to a news release from the DOJ.

The Wayne County School District, which serves up to 3,500 students, had been operating under a desegregation order since 1970, the report says.

In 2006, the federal court entered into an agreement with the district specifically to prohibit the use of race in classroom assignments at Waynesboro Elementary School, one of the district’s four elementary schools, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division says in the release.

But concerns continued in 2012 about Waynesboro’s classroom assignment practices, and the court approved a consent order directing the district to randomly assign students to classrooms in the school.

As a result, the district has used the new classroom assignment procedures for the last four school years in compliance with the order.

“We commend the Wayne County School District for satisfying its remaining obligations in this case and ensuring equal educational opportunities for all students,” Gupta says in the release. “We have been pleased to work with the district and other school systems under desegregation orders to resolve outstanding issues and seek dismissal of these cases when district have satisfied their obligations.”

The Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education 1954 ruling to put Black and White children in the same classrooms has been one of the nation’s most difficult tasks. And to some degree, unequal education represents the heart of today’s social protest movement, because a lack of opportunities for people of color has led to sweeping economic disparities.

The New York Times reports:

Over the years, researchers like Prof. Roslyn Mickelson at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, conducted studies concluding that children of any race who attended diverse schools were more likely to succeed, in areas like graduating, avoiding crime and attending college.

But in the end, the same federal courts that had ushered in integration helped kill it. In the late 1990s, Judge Robert D. Potter of Federal District Court essentially said that the Charlotte district had met its constitutional duty by successfully creating a single school system serving all children regardless of race and that no more need be done.

In a few years’ time, West Charlotte High, which had been roughly 40 percent black and 60 percent white in the 1970s, became 88 percent black and 1 percent white. And it wasn’t just Charlotte. Today, nearly two-thirds of the school districts that had been ordered to desegregate are no longer required to do so, including Seminole County, Fla. (2006); Little Rock, Ark. (2007); and Galveston County, Tex. (2009).

The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division currently monitors 178 school districts under active desegregation orders. Over the last year, several school districts under desegregation orders have successfully sought to end court oversight and the cases have been dismissed, states the release.

SOURCE: The New York Times | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty


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