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Mississippi School District Ordered to Desegregate

US District Court Judge Tom Lee ordered the Walthall County School District in Mississippi yesterday to desegregate its classes within 30 days. The school reportedly had a transfer policy allowing white students to transfer to the district’s only predominantly white school and also “clustered” students in classrooms on the basis of race. According to Lee’s order, a school-board sanctioned transfer policy has resulted in hundreds of white students transferring to nearby Salem Attendance Center, which as a result has become “a racially identifiable white school while the student enrollment of the Tylertown schools has become predominantly black” due to the annual transfers of over 300 predominantly white students. Concurrently, at four K-12 schools in Tylertown, Lee’s order stated that “District administrators group, or ‘cluster,’ disproportionate numbers of white students into designated classrooms…resulting in significant numbers of segregated, all-black classrooms at each grade level,” reported the Washington Post. The school district was first ordered to desegregate in August 1970. In 2007, Justice Department lawyers contacted the school district to monitor its compliance with the 1970 federal desegregation order and uncovered the two alleged violations. Its suit, filed in December 2009, alleged that the school district’s practices violate the 1970 desegregation order, the Equal Protection Clause, and Title IV. Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General who leads the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement, “we will take action so that school districts subject to federal desegregation orders comply with their obligation to eliminate vestiges of separate black and white schools.” The order requires that “the district shall cease using race in the assignment of students to classrooms in a manner that results in the racial segregation of students [and that] the district shall randomly assign students to classrooms at the Tylertown Elementary Schools through the use of a student management software program,” reported the Christian Science Monitor.

Sources:

Washington Post 4/13/10; Christian Science Monitor 4/13/10; Department of Justice Press Release 4/13/10

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