Schools in Mississippi, South Still Battling Segregation

Sixty years after Brown v. The Board of Education, school segregation is still an issue in 44 Mississippi school districts.  After the 1954 ruling, schools were sued and told they must desegregate.

President Barack Obama, on the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, said the decision was “the first major step in dismantling the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine that justified Jim Crow,” the racial segregation laws in place at that time across the South.

US District Judge Glen Davidson recently ordered a freedom-of-choice plan in order to help desegregate four Cleveland schools, two of which (D.M. Smith and East Side High) are all black.  According to the plan, students would be allowed to choose to attend whichever school they liked, writes Jack Elliott Jr. for The Clarion-Ledger.

The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals Statistics have shown that since the order was put in place in 2013, not one white student has chosen to attend D.M. Smith or East Side High.

The 5th Circuit said it firmly disagreed with a freedom-of-choice plan where such plans have “historically proven to be an ineffective desegregation tool.”

Cleveland school officials have until December to present another desegregation plan to Davidson.  If approved, the plan will be put in place for the 2015-2016 school year.

The school district is hopeful to create magnet programs at the two schools in order to attract white students.  The curriculum of such programs run through a particular theme, such as science.

Census data shows that of the 12,348 residents in Cleveland, 50.2% are black and 47.5% are white.

According to an article written by Jess Bravin for The Wall Street Journal, the high school east of the town’s former railroad tracks for the Illinois Central company in Cleveland is 100% black, while one to the west of that former landmark is nearly 100% white.

When segregation laws were still intact, no blacks lived west of the railroad, and the same was true of whites and the eastern side of the city.

While Mississippi has the most schools in still suffering from segregation, much of the South, particularly the poorer states, all are suffering from the same problem.

Justice Department documents show its civil rights division is still a party to 43 school desegregation lawsuits against school districts in Alabama, 24 in Louisiana, five in Tennessee, three in Arkansas and 35 in Georgia.

Prior to Brown vs. Board of Education, 16 states and the District of Columbia  had strict segregation laws in place, as far north as Maryland and Missouri. A further 11 states had no legislation and in four more it was optional.

The persistence in modern-day schools is often attributed to a similar trend known as “residential segregation” where different races live in different geographic areas, predicated by their own comfortableness or by income restrictions or freedoms.