The Cleveland Municipal School District will appeal a federal judge's "desegregation" order. Read this Clarion-Ledger story about the appeal and see if there is any pertinent information left out of the story:
The Cleveland School District disputes a federal judge's ruling that the school district is segregated and signals it will likely appeal the judge's decision.
"The Cleveland School District strongly believes that the judge’s decision and comments by others have inaccurately portrayed our district as segregated, which is misleading and incorrect," the district said in a statement released through Cleveland School Board attorney Jamie Jacks. "The undeniable truth is that the Cleveland School District’s student population is integrated and has been for decades. The district provides excellent educational opportunities to all students and offers an open enrollment policy allowing students to attend the school of their choice regardless of race or address. It should be noted neither of the district’s two middle schools nor the two high schools have a majority white enrollment and a national expert in school desegregation has written that the Cleveland School district is one of only a handful of school districts in the country with increasing interracial exposure. The Cleveland School District’s board believes the court’s decision to consolidate schools will limit the choices of both parents and students. The board is studying the judge’s 96-page ruling issued late Friday and is strongly considering an appeal."
The five-member school board, which has three white members and two black members, voted this week to investigate an appeal, and is expected to vote next week on whether to actual file an appeal, Jacks said.
A federal judge ordered the Cleveland School District last week to consolidate its majority black secondary schools with historical white schools, ending a five-decade legal battle to desegregate schools in the 12,000-population city in north Mississippi.
"Six decades after the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education declared that 'separate but equal has no place' in public schools, this decision serves as a reminder to districts that delaying desegregation obligations is both unacceptable and unconstitutional," Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. "This victory creates new opportunities for the children of Cleveland to learn, play and thrive together. The court's ruling will result in the immediate and effective desegregation of the district's middle school and high school program for the first time in the district's more than century-long history."
The court rejected as unconstitutional two alternatives proposed by the school district, agreeing with the Justice Department that the only way to achieve desegregation is through consolidation.
In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Debra Brown also ordered the parties to submit a proposed timeline to implement the plan in such a way as to ensure the immediate termination of the school district's dual system. She set the deadline for no later than 21 days from the entry of her opinion, which was issued Friday.
"The delay in desegregation has deprived generations of students of the constitutionally guaranteed right of an integrated education," Brown said in the 96-page opinion. "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."
Holmes Adams, attorney for the Cleveland Board of Education, said Monday the board is still reviewing the opinion. He said the board will make a decision on whether to appeal after fully digesting the 96-page opinion.
Under the Justice Department's plan approved by the court — which was developed in consultation with experts in school desegregation, school facilities, school financing, and parent and community engagement — the district will consolidate the virtually all-black D.M. Smith Middle School with the historically white Margaret Green Junior High School. The district will also consolidate the virtually all-black East Side High School with the historically white Cleveland High School. Further, the district will review its existing educational programs and identify new programs for the consolidated schools, address staffing considerations and perform necessary maintenance and upgrades to facilities.
The Cleveland School District has about 3,700 students, with about 66 percent black, 30 percent white and 4 percent Asian or Hispanic.
The ruling follows years of collaborative work with the local community and private plaintiffs. Community members — from parents and faith leaders to former teachers and coaches — testified in court in 2012 and 2015. They described the stigma long associated with the district's black schools and the sense among black children that white children attended better schools. During last May's hearing, they testified that consolidation was the only way to bridge the divide and expressed a willingness to take the steps, however difficult, to secure equal educational opportunities for their children and grandchildren. Parents of all racial backgrounds testified that they want their children to learn in a diverse environment to prepare them to encounter the world today.
The approved plan commits the district to a path of full engagement with students, parents, educators and community stakeholders in implementing consolidation. Cleveland is a small Mississippi Delta city of 12,000 residents, divided by railroad tracks that separate east from west as well as black from white. As one community member testified, "We can break down this wall of racism that divides us and keeps us separated, and we could create a new culture in our school system that's going to unite us and unite our whole city." The Justice Department shares the sentiments of the court that "the district's commitment to the education of its children will no doubt ensure that the gem that is Cleveland, along with its surrounding areas, only shine brighter as the shadows of segregation recede."
Vanderbilt University Public Policy and Education professor Claire Smrekar, who was hired by the Department of Justice, said in an affidavit the proposed plan would create a consolidated, districtwide middle school using the existing East Side High School facility, and a consolidated, districtwide high school campus using the existing Cleveland High School and Margaret Green Junior High School facilities.
Ellis Turnage, a Cleveland attorney who worked with the Justice Department on the case, said things are still divided in Cleveland, with the railroad track being the dividing line. He said whites live on the west side and blacks on the east side.
However, in the Mississippi Delta, he said, more white students attend public school in Cleveland than in other areas. He said it will be interesting to see if whites stay or leave the district if the secondary schools are consolidated.
That was the news, now for the Clarion-Ledger opinion. What is left out of the rather sanctimonious May 18 editorial?
To the sad reality of a school district in Mississippi taking five decades to desegregate. A federal court order issued this week stated the Cleveland School District must consolidate its majority black secondary schools with historical white schools. In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Debra Brown also ordered the parties to submit a proposed timeline to implement the plan in such a way as to ensure the immediate termination of the school district’s dual system. The numbing fact here is that it's been six decades since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that declared the "separate but equal" philosophy used to segregate schools as unconstitutional. We agree that segregation has no place in a civil world and applaud the ruling. However, it's incredibly disturbing to know such practices have been ongoing in Mississippi and in its public schools. Segregation is hateful, and no district in the state should continue such an archaic and disgusting practice.
It appears the "state" newspaper's reporters and editorial staff are incapable of conducting basic research or statistical analysis even after JJ did their homework for them earlier this week. The demographic information of Cleveland schools are available on the Mississippi Department of Education's website. Here is what the Clarion-Ledger refuses to tell its readers:
Cleveland High School
White: 298 students (47.76%)
Black: 281 students (45.03%)
Hispanic: 32 students
East Side High School
Black: 368 students (>95%)
Margaret Green Junior High School
Black: 264 students (50.48%)
White: 225 students (43.02%)
Hispanic: 28 students
D.M. Smith Middle School
Black: 245 students (99.59%)
Bell Elementary School
Black: 193 students (52%)
White: 158 students (42%)
Asian: 11 students
Cypress Park Elementary School
Black: 261 students (100%)
Nailor Elementary School
Black: 371 students (100%)
Parks Elementary School
Black:149 students (42%)
White: 187 students (53%)
Pearman Elementary School
Black: 168 students (66%)
White: 62 students (25%)
Hispanic: 11 students
The truth is the schools are integrated. The question is why has the Clarion-Ledger refused to disclose these statistics in no less than two articles and an editorial.