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All Deliberate Speed

Old 04-13-10, 11:35 PM
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All Deliberate Speed

Miss. county schools ordered to comply with desegregation order

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 13, 2010; 2:58 PM

A federal judge Tuesday ordered a rural county in southwestern Mississippi to stop segregating its schools by grouping African American students into all-black classrooms and allowing white students to transfer to the county's only majority-white school, the U.S. Justice Department announced.

The order, issued by Senior Judge Tom S. Lee of the U.S. District Court of Southern Mississippi, came after Justice Department civil rights division lawyers moved to enforce a 1970 desegregation case against the state and Walthall County.

Known as Mississippi's cream pitcher for its dairy farms and bordering Louisiana 80 miles north of New Orleans, Walthall County has a population of about 15,000 people that includes about 54 percent white residents and 45 percent African American residents, according to the U.S. Census.

For years, the local school board has permitted hundreds of white students to transfer from its Tylertown schools, which are about 75 percent African American and serve about 1,700 students, to another school, the Salem Attendance Center, which is about 66 percent white and serves about 577 students in grades K-12. The schools are about 10 miles apart.

Salem became "a racially identifiable white school while the student enrollment of the Tylertown schools has become predominantly black" because of the transfers, U.S. officials alleged in December, based on data from the 2007-08 school year, according to Lee's order.

At the same time in Tylertown four K-12 schools, "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," the judge wrote, summarizing the Justice Department lawyers' case.

The Walthall County School District did not file a response to the case, Lee wrote in approving the government's desegregation plan.

"More than 55 years after Brown v. Board of Education, it is unacceptable for school districts to act in a way that encourages or tolerates the resegregation of public schools," said Thomas E. Perez, U.S. assistant attorney general in charge of the civil rights division, in a written 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."

Walthall County School Superintendent Danny McCallum declined to comment, saying he had just received the judge's order. The school system's lawyer, Conrad Moore, did not immediately respond to messages left with his office.

Walthall school officials have said they will comply with the consent decree. But they have pointed out that because of how district lines are drawn, some students within Tylertown boundary lines actually live closer to Salem. They have also said there are not enough white students remaining to spread out evenly across Tylertown classes.

Overall, Walthall County's six schools serve about 2,500 students, 64 percent of them black and 35 percent white.

Lee required county schools, starting this fall, to bar student transfers within the district except in cases involving a risk to the child's health or safety, major hardship, a parent employed at the receiving school or a resulting reduction of the racial disparity in both the child's old and new schools. Rising seniors set to graduate in 2011 would also be exempted.

The court also ordered Tylertown schools to stop using race in classroom assignments "in a manner that results in racial segregation of students," adopting instead random, computer-generated assignments in most cases.

According to county data requested by the U.S. Justice Department in 2007, Walthall County schools allowed transfers that made the racial composition of Salem's student body "fifteen percent more white" in the 2007-08 school year, or 66 percent instead of 51 percent. If the transferred students stayed at Tylertown schools, white students would have represented 31 percent of students, up from 22 percent.

I don't really have anything to add (other than "Welcome to the late 20th century, Walthall County!"), but it just amazes me that even today, this kind of stuff still goes on.
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Old 04-13-10, 11:37 PM
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Re: All Deliberate Speed

Wow, me too.
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Old 04-14-10, 05:11 AM
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Re: All Deliberate Speed

Someone should go make a documentary about this.
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Old 04-14-10, 10:31 AM
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Re: All Deliberate Speed

We had the opposite in my school district. If your race was the majority in your local school, you could transfer to any school where your race was the minority. There were special cases as well, like if the school got close to 50/50, you could be grandfathered in if you already were in the M2M program or if your sibling was.

If your race was a minority everywhere (like me), you were discriminated against and couldn't pick your school
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Old 04-15-10, 03:47 AM
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Re: All Deliberate Speed

"grouping African American students into all-black classrooms" well that part sounds really wrong and I'm glad to see that changed but I don't see any big deal with the rest of it.

One is a school district with 1700+ and the other is a small school with less then 600 students in total between grades k-12.. Parents always seem to want a smaller school with smaller class sizes. Even then the smaller school is 75% white so it's not like they "ban" kids of other races from going there. Odds are the kids at the smaller school, black or white, just want to go where their friends are at. Same way most kids tend to pick a school, if they have a choice..

Hum.. I thought everywhere had gone open enrollment by now? Parents should be able to send their kids to any public school they want as long as there is room for the student.

then again maybe I'm missing the point being my local high school never had enough diversity for any segregation issues in the first place. I think we had 4-5 black kids at my high school of about 500 or so students. Maybe... lets see Tony, the nerdy guy in band, the cheerleader chick who ended up on the tv show Alias, errrrrr that kid a grade under me and... oh yeah, the bully who ended up getting randomly shot and killed when in LA or something like that.. (it was a long time ago)

I always think of him when ever someone brings up the horrible stats of black youth and death due to firearms. Being even with so little diversity at my school 'the black guy' still got shot and killed. Sure the guy was a jerk but looking back he was just a stupid kid like we all are at the time. He did not deserve what happened to him.
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