Cleveland Starts Desegregating Schools After More Than Half A Century

By Diane Palmer, Parent Herald May 19, 05:00 am

A federal court has ordered the district town of Cleveland, Mississippi to consolidate its junior high and high schools to fully desegregate its school system. The decision came after the town waged the U.S. Department of Justice for nearly fifty years.

In Cleveland, black students and white students are largely separated into two high schools with one mostly white and one mostly black. Its middle school and junior high also experience a similar situation, according to Department of Justice officials.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, which required the Cleveland School District to combine the two high schools together, handed down the order. Junior high and middle school will also be combined into one as ordered by the federal court. 

Testimonies from both the black and white community supported the integration of the schools. The previously perception was that white students attended better schools compared to black students.

Officials from the school district have opposed the idea of consolidating schools by giving evidence to prove it to be inefficient. Officials from the schools could not immediately be reached for comment, according to the Huffington Post.

The desegregation of secondary schools is the first of the district's 100-year history. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to separate schools for black and white students under the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education, according to Telegraph.

The court also said that the dual system Cleveland has long been running has failed to achieve desegregation required by law. Delaying desegregation obligations is both unacceptable and unconstitutional, according to Vanita Gupta, the top civil rights prosecutor for the U.S. government.

The district has a population of 12,000 and has 3,600 students, of which two-thirds are black and a third are white. Cleveland sits in the heart of Mississippi Delta where a large population of early slave owners owned cotton plantations.

To this date, a railroad track divides the city both geographically and racially. Unfortunately, the division is a common occurrence in many towns located in Delta where black students are located on the east side of the track.

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