Mississippi district settles 52-year desegregation lawsuit
- Middle and high schools in the Cleveland (Mississippi) School District will merge to form a more integrated district, settling a federal segregation lawsuit that has been going on for more than 50 years.
- The district had appealed a 2016 ruling ordering desegregation, which was not a matter of state policy, but rather the enrollment choices of families in the district, which is nearly 65% black and 33% white.
- The federal judge ruling in the case, originally filed in 1965, pointed to the illegality of maintaining "separate but equal" systems of education, and many contend there were disparities in the quality of education and resources at the schools.
An increasing number of districts could soon see similar segregation lawsuits arising, as court-mandated integration policies begin to expire and state and local leaders, either believing the problem solved or not considering forced integration a high priority, opt not to renew them. Redlining, technically illegal, is still very much alive and well, and neighborhoods — and thus neighborhood schools — are increasingly more segregated. And in some communities, it is less a matter of de facto policy than a matter of self-selecting neighborhoods in which more faces look familiar.
Most segregation suits, however, are spurred by the notion that some schools are better funded and resourced than others within the state, more than the idea that people want full intermixing. The best way to prevent against lawsuits is to ensure equitable funding and resources to all schools in a district. In states like Massachusetts, one of the top education states in the country, it is difficult to imagine that more than half of the schools in the largest city could be inadequately ventilated, while across the city schools are models for instructional design and performance.
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