School case likely ongoing
by Denise Strub
Jan 28, 2013 | 2183 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
"In many ways I feel like the parents prevailed," said attorney Ellis Turnage, who for the last eight years or so has been working with the U.S. Department of Justice on the Cleveland School District Desegregation case.

"It's not a complete victory for the Cleveland School District," said Turnage, explaining that a lot of progress has been made in the district recently and without the lawsuit hanging over the district he believes progress may not have been made.

"I feel like the legal complaint opened the door for the creation of Bell Academy and the faculty reassignment," he said.

On Thursday, Senior U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Mississippi Glen H. Davidson handed down his opinion on the 48-year-old desegregation case.

Davidson, who visited the Cleveland School District in December 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.

However, Davidson did abolish the high school and junior high school attendance zones, which forced children to attend schools in the neighborhood where they lived, and he abolished the majority-to-minority transfer program, which allowed a student of majority race at one school to transfer to a school where the student's race was a minority.

In addition, Davidson wrote, "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. 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."

The abolished practices allow students to choose which high school or junior high school they want to attend.

Davidson ruled preregistration must be completed by April 1 for the 2013-2014 year and if "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."

"I think this opens up an avenue for more change," said Turnage, who explained that whether it was true or not, many students are being told that the west side of town is getting a better education.

"It causes rifts in the community and in families," he said, adding he believes the judge wanted to see how many students wanted to attend schools on the west side of Cleveland.

"I'm hoping the proposed classes at East Side High School attract students from Cleveland High. Only the future will tell," he said.

The plaintiffs in this 48-year lawsuit have the opportunity to appeal Davidson's decision.

Asked if he thought there would be an appeal, Turnage said, "My prediction … it's a continuing saga."

See www.bolivarcom.com, for Davidson's complete order.