Judge rules in Cleveland school case
by Denise Strub
Jan 25, 2013 | 3810 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Senior U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Mississippi Glen H. Davidson has given his opinion on the case involving the Cleveland School District.

The issue at hand revolves around the U.S. Department of Justice's belief that the Cleveland School District continues to practice a form of segregation by operating separate middle schools and high schools, which are nearly 100 percent black schools .

Davidson, who visited the Cleveland School District before making his decision, did not order consolidation of the high schools and middle schools.

"The Court notes that the predominantly African-American junior and high schools —East Side High School and D.M. Smith Middle School — are actually housed in newer and probably superior facilities than their counterparts located on the west side of the former railroad tracks," wrote Davidson.

"Upon touring the facility at East Side High School, the trophy cases for athletic achievement reminded the Court of what you might see at the University of Alabama. The president of the School Board, who is a graduate of East Side High School, testified at the hearing that there exists a long prideful legacy among the alumni of this institution."

"We were very pleased that Judge Davidson came to Cleveland and toured the school. We wanted him to come," said Cleveland School District Attorney Jamie Jacks. She explained he visited all the school and peaked in classrooms and the cafeterias.

Davidson noted that magnet schools were a positive force in the school district and that he was pleased with the organization of the schools and their ability to attract students of all races.

"Cleveland School District is encouraged to continue developing and expanding its magnet school programs, specifically with its proposals to establish magnet programs at D.M. Smith Middle School and East Side High School," wrote Davidson in his judgment. "In the opinion of the Court, the District has clearly demonstrated with its two magnet elementary schools, Bell Academy and Hayes Cooper Center, that magnet schools can result in increasingly racially integrated public schools."

However Davidson did order the district to make some changes.

"The Court is of the opinion that although the District has demonstrated some success with its magnet programs, it is now time for this Court to intervene and state its opinion as to a plan that will fall within the parameters of prevailing constitutional and case law," he wrote.

"The Court is of the opinion that the attendance zones, as defined by the former railroad tracks in Cleveland, perpetuate vestiges of racial segregation. The high school and junior high school students should have a true freedom of choice to attend either high school and either junior high school.

"Accordingly, the Court orders that the heretofore-established attendance zones shall be abolished, thus establishing an open-enrollment procedure."

Jacks said, "Beginning next school year, every child will have the choice where they want to go school." Bell and Hayes Cooper will maintain the admittance programs and elementary schools will remain neighborhood schools.

"The District shall now work to establish procedures for pre-registration to ascertain the projected enrollment at each high school and each junior high school for the 2013-2014 school year. This pre-registration should be concluded by April 1, 2013. In the event that the existing facilities are inadequate to meet the projected registration, the Court will then address the matter with the parties as to an appropriate utilization of existing facilities," continued the opinion.

Davidson also ordered that the majority-to-minority transfer program, which allows a student of majority race at one school to transfer to a school where the student's race was a minority be abolished.

"The requirement for his race to be a minority in the transferee school is eliminated, thus permitting any child within the District to enroll in either of the high schools or junior high schools, regardless of the racial composition of the student body at such schools.

"The Court is of the opinion that this arrangement will permit a true freedom-of-choice enrollment as to both the high school and junior high school grades. In the opinion of the Court, this true freedom-of choice arrangement will meet the constitutional requirements."

Jacks said this Davidson's order allows for an expansion of the student's ability to choose where to go to schools.

"In the event transfers under this system result in a significant numerical imbalance in the high schools, Cleveland High School and East Side High School, and/or the junior high schools, Margaret Green Junior High School and D.M. Smith Middle School, the Court will address this problem accordingly," Davidson wrote.

This case began on July 24, 1965, when numerous individual plaintiffs sued the Bolivar County Board of Education, including the Cleveland School District, which was known at the time as Bolivar County School District Number 4. The plaintiffs argued that the board had white-only and black-only schools.

In 1965, Judge Claude Feemster Clayton ordered the board of education to submit its first plan of desegregation and then in the 1967-1968 school year Clayton ordered the board to desegregate faculty.

Judge William C. Keady was assigned the case on Sept. 9, 1968, and ordered that by the 1970-1971 school year students would be assigned to attend a particular school in the district based on the zone of residence that the student lived within.

In his signed order Keady wrote, "the district should employ or assign not less than one of six classroom teachers of a different race … in each of its schools ."

The district has been under the supervision and jurisdiction of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi since 1965.