In its response, the district offers a plan proposed by Dr. Christine Rossell, a professor of political science at Boston University and author of numerous books including "School Desegregation in the 21st Century," "Bilingual Education in Massachusetts" and "The Carrot and the Stick for School Desegregation."
Rossell's areas of specialization are: public policy, public policy analysis; American politics, school desegregation and bilingual education policy, education policy, urban politics and policy and methodology.
According to the 84-page response, "the plan proposed by Dr. Rossell involves additional magnet programs that have a demonstrated track-record of success. Dr. Rossell’s report makes clear that the mandatory reassignment plan suggested by the Department of Justice will not promote further integration of the district’s schools."
Rossell points out that her study was done after visits to Bell Elementary, Pearman Elementary, East Side High School and Margaret Green Junior High School, Cleveland High School, D.M. Smith Junior High, Cypress Park, and Hayes Cooper made on April 16 and 17.
During that time, Rossell said she talked with the Cleveland School Board of Trustees and Superintendent Dr. Jacquelyn C. Thigpen about these and other issues.
"The conclusions and opinions I offer in this report are based on my past experience — 25 years of experience designing and analyzing school desegregation plans, 39 years of research on the impacts of school desegregation plans, 33 years of consulting for school districts across the U.S. in connection with educational equity court cases, 25 years of experience designing and analyzing opinion surveys, and 38 years of teaching courses on school desegregation, educational policy, public policy, and research method," said Rossell.
This report comes on the heels of a recent speech made by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder at the University of Mississippi during events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of James Meredith's entry to the university.
In that speech, Holder talks of desegregation of school districts in the south and specifically mentioned the renewed efforts by the U.S. Department of Justice to impose a new integration plan in Cleveland.
Rossell's opinion makes five strong arguments for the district.
The first being that the Cleveland School District has made a good-faith effort to integrate its schools using the neighborhood school choice plan concept and the magnet school concept, which, according to the district, have been approved by all prior courts in this case.
Rossell's opinion claims, "these and other efforts have resulted in a unitary istrict with levels of integration higher than several other districts already declared unitary.
"Because the district is 70 percent black, there are not enough white students enrolled in the district’s schools to racially balance the east side schools through a mandatory assignment program," Rossell said.
"It cannot be repeated often enough that there can be no integration without whites," she said.
"Although the DOJ contends that Margaret Green JHS and East Side High are white schools, that is no longer true," Rossell pointed out in her opinion. "The percentages of white students at Margaret Green Junior High School has declined from 99 percent in 1967 to 50 percent in 2012-13. For the last three years, it has been a predominantly minority school but in 2012-13 it became 50-50. At Cleveland High School the white enrollment has declined from 99 percent in 1967-68 to 48 percent in 2011-12 and then to 47 percent in 2012-13."
According to Rossell, "A mandatory reassignment plan would turn the district into an all-black school district consistent with the rest of the Mississippi Delta."
As a tool of proof, Rossell's plan adds an outline in detail of the “tragedy of mandatory reassignment plans.”
In this outline, she provides an analysis of several districts, including Hattiesburg, Natchez and Indianola.
According to her written opinion, "because of mandatory reassignment, these schools now have a unitary school system that is all black.”
Rossell used the desegregation of the Hattiesburg School District as an example of what happens when 'white-flight' occurs under the Department of Justice's Mandatory Reassignment Plan.
"Hattiesburg is an exemplary example of a mandatory desegregation plan," said Rossell. "Hattiesburg had extensive white flight as I had predicted and is now virtually an all black school system. It is about the same size as the Cleveland School District in enrollment, 5,500 compared to Cleveland’s 3,700 and much smaller in square miles — Cleveland is 109 square miles and Hattiesburg is 40. Most schools in Hattiesburg were very close to each other.
"Regrettably, the Department of Justice’s 1987 plan to mandatorily reassign white students to black schools to achieve racial balance resulted in less integration than when Hattiesburg was found in 1985 to have failed to dismantle the dual school system and ordered to implement a mandatory reassignment plan," she continued. "The schools did maintain a fair amount of racial balance because when all schools are black, all schools are racially balanced. That is, however, not what most people think of when they think of integration."
Rossell went on to offer multiple other examples of 'white flight' that have occurred when mandatory reassignment has been implemented.
Rossell said that there is a difference between racial balance for its own sake and real integration — that is, blacks and whites going to school together.
"Every one of these school districts, with the exception of Cleveland, would be considered segregated by any sensible person’s standard. The Greenville district is 99 percent black and the others are no less than 92 percent black. This appears to be the goal of the Justice Department and I draw this conclusion because Hattiesburg appears to be its shining symbol of a good plan."
Rossell also points out in her opinion that the district spends significantly more money on the formerly black schools, East Side and D.M. Smith, than on the formerly white schools, CHS and MGJHS.
"The May 15, 2012, supplemental report shows that for elementary schools, the district spends about $1,000 more per pupil and for secondary schools in the formerly black schools and that has been true for at least the last three fiscal years.
"I believe that most courts would approve unitary status for CSD on its current record since there are not enough whites in the public schools to racially balance the east side schools at a level that is both stable and educationally advantageous and the Cleveland School District has certainly tried.
"The proposed programs with emphasis on school magnet programs are the only chance that the CSD has of improving integration at the east side secondary schools because they have the possibility of attracting whites out of private school. Any mandatory reassignment plan would turn the Cleveland School District into an all black school district as has occurred in the rest of the Mississippi Delta."
With the study and subsequent opinion of Rossell presented, the district urged the court to approve its previously proposed desegregation plan.
The Bolivar Commercial will report more on this case when the court renders a decision.