/Cleveland schools mull appeal of federal consolidation order

Cleveland schools mull appeal of federal consolidation order

Officials from Cleveland schools say they are considering appealing a U.S. District Court Order that Cleveland School District consolidate the local high schools and middle school to settle a 50-year-old case of desegregation. Judge Debra Brown of Greenville ordered Cleveland School District to present to her by mid-June the proposed timeline for a plan that would end the racial disparities at four facilities in the Delta town. Smith Middle and Margaret Green Middle schools. Brown’s 96-page opinion stated that consolidation was the only legal avenue available to her court. According to a school district statement published on its website it stated that the Cleveland School Board believed the plans it had proposed were “constitutional and in the best interests of students, parents, and the community” and it was considering appealing. The district covers 109 miles and includes the cities of Cleveland (Boyle), Renova, Merigold, and Boyle. According to the 2010 Census, the district’s racial makeup is 45.5 percent white, 51.5% African American, and 3 percent of other races. Two private schools are home to some of the white students. The Bolivar County school district has been subject to a court-mandated desegregation order since 1965. This was in response to a lawsuit filed against the Bolivar County Board of Education alleging that schools were operated on a racially discriminatory basis. Over the years, many federal court orders required changes to full desegregation. However, little has changed until 1985, when the U.S. Department of Justice charged the school system with preventing the implementation of the 1969 order by the court and preventing the elimination of two schools that were racially segregated. The court noted that, despite all the efforts of the district, East Side High School was still racially identified as African American schools and Smith Middle School had a student population exceeding 97 percent. Brown was responsible for the legal matter, which began in July 2014 when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a plan that allowed students to have “freedom of choice”. Brown then asked the United States to submit competing plans to desegregate schools. After ruling the two district plans unconstitutional, Brown’s May 13 decision selected the U.S. plan. Brown stated, “There is no doubt that the district has operated an illegal dual system.” She also wrote that the U.S. plan will allow students in grades 6-12 to start attending consolidated schools in the 2016-2017 school years. Staff and faculty will also be subject to reassignments. According to the plan, the new high school would be located in the existing Cleveland High. It will house approximately 1,098 students whose racial makeup is 62.9 percent black, 32.4 per cent white, and 4.7 per cent other. The East Side High school would host 692 students whose racial makeup is 70.5 percent black and 26.2 percent white. Opponents of the plan fear that the changes will cause “bright flight” and the loss of white students. Similar efforts have been made in Natchez, Hattiesburg, McComb. They expressed concerns that the consolidation of athletic programs would be difficult._x000D