School segregation is not a thing of the past
by Sarah Schweinsberg
Posted 6/07/16, 12:19 pm
Cleveland, Miss., is a small delta town with a long history of segregation and racial inequality. More than five decades after the Civil Rights movement, one of the town’s two high schools remains 100 percent African-American. The other is integrated, split almost 50-50. Some people see that as a major victory for racial progress, but a federal district court judge says it’s not good enough.
On May 13, a judge ordered the Cleveland school district to combine its two middle schools and two high schools in order to achieve racial integration.
The ruling has divided the community of 12,000 just like the railroad track running through the center of town, with white families largely living to the west and black families largely living to the east.
East Side High School, which is well-respected, has been nearly 100 percent African-American since it first opened in the 1950s. Supporters say it’s a good school with deep roots in the community, and they don’t want to give that up.
Deshambra Fields and her brother, Quoindedrick, who both attend East Side High, told CBS News they did not want the schools to combine.
“It’s this side of the highway versus that side of the highway. And it’s just⎯it’s been a rival for a long time,” Quoindedrick said of the other school.
The school district tried to woo students to integrate by offering open enrollment and magnet programs. But it didn’t work fast enough to satisfy the district court.
Some Cleveland residents fear the forced school merger will spark white flight from the district, where only one-third of students are white.
“Unfortunately, when you do a mandatory reassignment plan, the results statistically tell us it’s not good in terms of maintaining diversity,” school attorney Jamie Jacks told CBS News.
The U.S. Department of Justice supports the court’s ruling.
“The only way to achieve desegregation is by consolidating Cleveland’s high schools and middle schools,” federal officials said in a statement.
Six decades after Brown v. Board of Education declared the policy of separate but equal schools unconstitutional, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found many segregated schools still exist⎯and the problem is growing. The Department of Justice is the plaintiff in 177 school segregation cases.
The report found the proportion of schools segregated by both race and class increased from 9 percent to 16 percent between 2001 and 2014. These are schools where more than 75 percent of children receive free or reduced-price lunch and more than 75 percent are African-American or Hispanic.
The Washington Post reported the number of intensely segregated schools more than doubled during same time period. These are schools in which more than 90 percent of students are low-income and of color.
The segregated schools are easy to identify, but, as the Cleveland, Miss., schools demonstrate, the problem is harder to fix.
Sarah is a reporter for WORLD Radio.