Ensuring Equal Education Opportunities for All Students
Among the critical responsibilities of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is working to ensure that all children have access to equal educational opportunities.
In 2011, the Division continues its work to end segregation or re-segregation in public schools. On March 23, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi entered an Order modifying the 1969 desegregation order governing the operations of the Leake County (Mississippi) School District.
In 2007, the Justice Department initiated a case review of the Leake County School Board’s compliance with the 1969 desegregation order. The department requested information from the district and visited each school in the district twice. The department also solicited input from parents and concerned citizens.
After this comprehensive review, the Justice Department concluded that the district had not complied with the desegregation order. Specifically, the district continued to operate four schools that could be identified as belonging to a single race based on student assignment, faculty assignment, facilities, extracurricular activities, and quality of education:
Edinburg Attendance Center (K-12, over 85 percent white)
Thomastown Attendance Center (K-12, over 98 percent black),
South Leake High (8-12, over 85 percent black), and
South Leake Elementary (K-7, over 85 percent black).
In lieu of litigation, the Justice Department and the district entered negotiations to close the Edinburg Attendance Center and Thomastown Attendance Center, reassign students and faculty, and address disparities in quality of education and extracurricular activities. The district studied capacity at its existing facilities, renovations or additions that would be needed at existing facilities, transportation routes, and faculty assignments to assess the feasibility of closing the two schools.
The parties also held a community meeting, attended by more than 800 people, to solicit input from students, parents, and concerned citizens. After fully considering the community’s input, the Justice Department and the district filed a joint motion asking the court to modify the 1969 desegregation order to allow for the closure of the Edinburg Attendance Center and Thomastown Attendance Center, reassignment of students and faculty so that the remaining schools are not racially identifiable, and improvements to the quality of education and extracurricular activities so they are substantially similar at the remaining schools. The court issued an Order on March 23 adopting all of the modifications sought by the parties. The Justice Department will monitor the implementation of the March 23, 2011 Order.
The Justice Department is committed to ensuring equal educational opportunity for all students, and will continue its efforts to make the promise of Brown v. Board of Education a reality.