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Judge Hears Arguments in Delta Desegregation Case

By Sandra Knispel | Published 12 Dec 2012 12:17pm | comments
Tonya Short, mother of a 7th grader in Cleveland, testified on behalf of the Department for Justice at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi yesterday, arguing Cleveland's high and middle schools should be consolidated.

A federal Judge is currently deciding whether two schools in the Delta will finally be desegregated. Nearly 50 years after the Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling in the Brown v. Board of Education case that stipulated that public schools cannot be segregated, the Cleveland School District is still struggling with integration. MPB’s Sandra Knispel has more from the court hearing in Oxford yesterday.

In Cleveland, two middle schools and two high schools have co-existed for decades. One set is all black, whereas the other is well-balanced for race. Now, the Cleveland School Board, which has a slight majority of black members, wants to introduce a magnet program for math, sciences and engineering, or possibly healthcare education, at both all-black schools. School board president, Maurice Lucas, who is African American, says he believes the magnet program would attract white kids to the all-black schools.

“I’m pretty confident, based on what happened this year with the courses that we’re offering now. We went from 12 to 49 white children [taking some classes] at East Side. And I think with the marketing program that we’re going to implement and the exceptional courses that we’re going to offer, I think it’ll be successful.”

But the U.S. Department of Justice disagrees sharply. DOJ lawyer Joseph Wardenski told U.S. Senior District Judge Glen Davidson that “It's time for Cleveland to finally eliminate the vestiges of segregation in its middle schools and high schools, root and branch, as was the promise of Brown V. Board of Education many years ago.”

Holmes Adams, a lawyer for the school district, however, warned the court that forcing consolidation of both high schools and middle schools in Cleveland could backfire.

“Based on social data research and sophisticated research done over the last 20 years, mandatory re-assignment plans like consolidation don’t work. They result in white students choosing other options that are available to them such as private schools, faith-based schools, charter schools, or home schooling."

Parents and community members in the courtroom audience, most of them African American, shook their heads repeatedly during the testimony of the school board president when he spoke of widespread community support for the magnet program. The judge’s ruling is not expected before January of next year.

Sandra Knispel, MPB News, Oxford.

 

 

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Tonya Short, mother of a 7th grader in Cleveland, testified on behalf of the Department for Justice at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi yesterday, arguing Cleveland's high and middle schools should be consolidated.


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