A five-decade legal battle over public school desegregation in Cleveland, Mississippi—which resurfaced last year—appears to have reached a final resolution.
The Department of Justice announced Monday that U.S. District Court Judge Debra M. Brown approved a joint settlement to desegregate the city’s middle and high schools.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler said the agreement “allows the community to move forward together.” He added that the accord shows both sides share a “commitment to high quality equal educational opportunities for all Cleveland students.”
The approved desegregation plan involves consolidating Cleveland’s middle and high schools for the beginning of the 2017 – 2018 school year. The district will remain under court supervision.
Under the agreement, both sides withdrew alternative desegregation proposals, and the school district also withdrew its pending appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Last year, the school board, divided along racial lines, voted to appeal Brown’s desegregation order. Three White members voted in favor of appealing, while its Black members wanted to accept the court’s plan.
Opponents of the court’s order warned that it would trigger another round of White flight from the historically White high school, which they argued said achieved integration without government involvement.
In the 1960s and 70s, school desegregation caused widespread White flight in Mississippi’s Delta region. According to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, outside of Cleveland, only four of 22 other districts in the region have student bodies less than 80 percent African-American.