Mississippi School District Ordered to Desegregate Its Schools


A federal court ruled that Cleveland, Miss., must consolidate schools. Credit Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

A federal court has ordered a town in Mississippi to desegregate its high schools and middle schools, ending a five-decade-long legal battle over integrating black and white students.

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi ordered the Cleveland School District to consolidate the schools after rejecting two alternatives proposed by the school district, saying they were unconstitutional.

“This victory creates new opportunities for the children of Cleveland to learn, play and thrive together,” said Vanita Gupta, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, in a statement published on Monday.

The court’s ruling means the district’s middle school and high school programs will be combined for the first time in their more than century-long history.


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The decision comes six decades after the United States Supreme Court declared in Brown v. Board of Education that “separate but equal has no place” in public schools.

The Justice Department on Monday said the district court found that the school district operated an “inadequate dual system” in Cleveland, a Mississippi Delta town in the western part of the state with a population of about 12,000.

“Although no court order can right these wrongs, it is the duty of the district to ensure that not one more student suffers under this burden,” the court said in its opinion.

School officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Justice Department’s plan, which was approved by the court, requires the district to consolidate the virtually all-black D.M. Smith Middle School with the historically white Margaret Green Junior High School.

The school district must also consolidate the mostly black East Side High School with the mostly white Cleveland High School, and review educational programs and identify new programs for the consolidation.

Testimony given in court by both white and black residents described a stigma associated with the black schools and a perception among families that white students received a better education.