The Cleveland Mississippi School District disagrees with a federal court’s order to desegregate in an announcement from the schoool board on the eve of the 62nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education.
The seminal case handed down by the High Court struck down racial segregation in public schools as unconstitutional.
In exclusive video, the Local I-Team reporter Maria Hallas, who was a practicing attorney, confronted the school board just as members emerged from an emergency closed-door meeting about the court order.
Cleveland Mississippi high school graduates spoke with the Local I-Team about how the federal court ruling will affect the area.
“The racial tension the whole desegregation and stuff it’s going to cause a lot of problems,” said Treyzar Eatmon, who attended East Side High School, a historically black school.
Opposition to integration at the University of Alabama caused President John F. Kennedy to intervene over 50 years ago.
In its 96-page opinion the court held the school district’s segregation “deprived generations” of Cleveland students their constitutional rights to an integrated education and the court “had the duty to ensure not one more student suffers that burden.”
The Cleveland school district board of supervisors met behind closed doors in an “executive meeting” Monday night. When board members emerged they declared no public meeting would be held and promptly left. We caught up with the school board president, George Evans, about the court order.
Evans: “We are speaking through our attorney.”
Hallas, reporter: “Yeah why won’t you talk with us about this?”
Evans: “Cause it is a ongoing litigation”
Ongoing litigation that has lasted over 50 years and shows few signs of ending. After our confrontation, we received a press release from the school board attorney, which in part said, “The Board of Trustees does not agree with the Court’s decision and is investigating its options including filing an appeal.”
Board members also requested the current enrollment plan stay the same during the appeal process.
De’Audriana Jones who also attended East Side High School waited outside the meeting to hear from board members. She too expressed concern.
“So many people [are] set in their traditions and what they like and what they’re used to. And so to come in and change it . . . it’s like it’ll be an uproar,”Jones said.
If a board request to continue the status quo is successful, historically black and white schools may be left in the same state of separation that has divided schools and the area for far longer than the 62 year old Supreme Court decision.
In the meantime, the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, which intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of the students and against the school board, said in a press release about the court’s decision Friday that “the division continues to prioritize enforcement of court orders addressing segregation” in public schools.