CLEVELAND, Miss., May 16 (UPI) — The Department of Justice won a five-decade long legal battle to desegregate schools in Mississippi’s city of Cleveland after a federal court ruled in the agency’s favor on Monday.
The Cleveland School District was ordered by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi to consolidate its middle schools and high schools. The court’s opinion stated the school district operated an incompetent dual system while failing to achieve the highest level of desegregation as possible.
“Six decades after the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education declared that ‘separate but equal has no place’ in public schools, this decision serves as a reminder to districts that delaying desegregation obligations is both unacceptable and unconstitutional,” Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. “This victory creates new opportunities for the children of Cleveland to learn, play and thrive together. The court’s ruling will result in the immediate and effective desegregation of the district’s middle school and high school program for the first time in the district’s more than century-long history.”
Under the Justice Department’s plan, which was approved by the court, the school district will consolidate the nearly all-black D.M. Smith Middle School with the nearly all-white Margaret Green Junior High School. The nearly all-black East Side High School will be merged with the nearly all-white Cleveland High School.
Cleveland has a population of about 12,000 people, which is “divided by railroad tracks that separate east from west as well as black from white,” the Justice Department writes.