The Cleveland (Miss.) school district has reached a settlement and will end a legal fight of more than 50 years over desegregation of its schools.
The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports that the agreement with private plaintiffs and the U.S. Justice Department calls for students in grades nine to 12 to attend a new high school in 2017-18 called Cleveland Central High School. The school will be housed at the former Cleveland High and Margaret Green campuses.
Students in grades seven and eight will attend a new junior high called Cleveland Central Junior High at the old East Side High campus.
Before deciding to settle the case, the Cleveland school board had been pursuing an appeal of a 2016 ruling by a U.S. District Court judge that ordered the district to consolidate its secondary schools to achieve desegregation.
District lawyer Jamie Jacks says the board's decision to settle the litigation was unanimous.
“It felt moving forward with a solid plan would serve the district, its students, faculty, parents and community best in the long run,” Jacks says. “The district is looking forward to making 2017-18 a successful year as we all move forward together.”
Since 2012, Cleveland schools have not had attendance zones for high schools and middle schools. Instead, parents were allowed to choose which school their children attend. That did little to change the racial makeup of the schools.
A federal court judge found in a 2016 ruling that a disproportionate amount of white students enrolled in Cleveland High School and Margaret Green Junior High School.
Fewer than five white students are enrolled at East Side High School or D.M. Smith Middle School, which are on the east side of the town’s abandoned railroad tracks that once served as an informal dividing line that separated blacks and whites.
As part of the settlement, the district dropped a plan it had approved in November that would have sent ninth and 10th grade students to the East Side High campus and 11th and 12th grade students to the Cleveland High campus. Sixth through eighth grade students would have attended the historically white Margaret Green.
The district says it will continue to seek community input from a multiracial advisory panel made up of parents and community members.