A decades-long school desegregation battle is over – generations after the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education.
Late on Friday, a federal district court ordered the Cleveland School District in Mississippi to consolidate its Black and White secondary schools, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta issued this statement:
“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.”
Gupta, who leads the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, said this decision will allow the children in Cleveland, Mississippi to grow and learn together for the first time in more than a century of the school district’s existence.
The Department described Cleveland as “a small Mississippi-Delta city of 12,000 residents, divided by railroad tracks that separate east from west as well as Black from White.”
According to the DOJ, U.S. District Judge Debra Brown rejected the school district’s two alternative plans, and agreed with the Department that consolidation of the secondary schools is the best way to achieve desegregation. She issued a 21-day deadline to comply with her order.
Brown’s 96-page opinion makes this observation:
“The delay in desegregation has deprived generations of students of the constitutionally-guaranteed right of an integrated education. 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.”
According to the DOJ, many in the Cleveland community of different races long-supported school desegregation. They testified to the existence of the “stigma” that Black kids attend the worst schools in the city. There was agreement and support among those community members regarding the DOJ’s consolidation plan.