Did Mississippi Deliberately Deprive Black Students of Equal Education?

This week the Southern Poverty Law Center, or SPLC, filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Mississippi. The suit claims that the state has failed to provide equal, uniform public schools for all students — and therefore, violated the law.

The filing comes on behalf of four mothers whose children attend schools in predominantly black districts that have long held “D” and “F” ratings.

The SPLC lawsuit specifically accuses Mississippi of intentionally undermining the “Readmission Act.” This law was created following the Civil War and outlined the requirements states would have to fulfill for eligiblity to rejoin the Union.

Mississippi eventually acquiesced to these conditions, which included the stipulation that all public students be given equal schooling — regardless of race.

The lawsuit argues that, as far back as 1890, Mississippi began taking steps to undermine the Readmission Act. For instance, government officials created a new state constitution, which loosened this requirement in the early days of Jim Crow era.

A senior lawyer for the SPLC, Will Bardwell, explains that since then, Mississippi has continually passed new laws which aim to weaken the Readmissions Act. Mississippi’s “education system is shamefully inequitable and anything but uniform,” Bardwell claims.

The schools at the heart of this lawsuit are well known for their gross deficiencies, including an insufficient amount of books and supplies, a lack of skilled and experienced teachers and limited access to extracurriculars.

One mother even had to spend $100 to help supply her daughter’s elementary school with items like toilet paper.

These districts also fall incredibly short when it comes to academic performance. Raines Elementary, with an almost entirely black student body, teaches children who have a reading proficiency of merely 10 percent — an unfortunately common reality in predominately black schools in the state.

It would be one thing if such dire conditions were commonplace across Mississippi’s public schools, as this would indicate a different type of failure. But the pattern doesn’t hold true throughout the state.

Most schools with a predominately white student body — even those located near failing districts — maintain high ratings and do not lack essential supplies. Of the 19 Mississippi school districts with “F” ratings, at least four in five students are black. In fact, 13 of these schools have over 95 percent black students.

By contrast, Mississippi’s top five rated schools are overwhelmingly white.

Considering these facts, it is difficult to deny the clear pattern of unequal education — with race as the key difference. While such a predicament might not be surprising for 1917, for such a disparity to exist in 2017 is not only shocking, but also atrocious.

Access to a quality education is arguably one of the most important influencing factors in a child’s future; not only does a poor education restrict a student’s economic potential as an adult, it can have a profound impact in less obvious ways.

An individuals who are unable to sustain themselves through legitimate and meaningful employment are at heightened risk of developing a diminished sense of self-worth. This, in turn, can spawn mental health issues like depression. And it can also prompt an individual to seek alternative paths to developing self-worth — for example, through criminal activity.

If there is one surefire way to keep a given group of people on the lower rung of the socioeconomic ladder, it is through depriving them of a meaningful education.

Mississippi owes its many black students equal access to a reformed education system — and a viable chance at a positive, productive future.

Photo Credit: Purestock/Thinkstock

71 comments

Roberto M
Roberto MARINI1 months ago

black students must have equal educations!

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Carl R
Carl R2 months ago

Thanks!!!

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iloshechka A
iloshechka A2 months ago

thanks

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Angela K
Angela K2 months ago

noted

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Issac H
Issac H2 months ago

In Mississippi? Do we really need to even ask that question? Or is it rhetorical?

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Julie B
Julie B2 months ago

Contemplating! Any1 tell me why Education is free [ which I think it should be] untill the age of College & University? Plus we learn from the University of Life. We actually Live in the Universe. As we start to learn ask more questions maybe? It seems easier with the Wealthy Elite whicht ever terms you say ~ to afford money into this institute! Perhaps each has a place alloted Iin the future? Iam thinking Lawyers Doctors Businesses Stocks and shares etc. Is this open to every1? If not why not? Theories...

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FOTEINI c
FOTEINI h2 months ago

all facts show it did :( don't forget to sign all petitions about this state.

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Carl R
Carl R2 months ago

Thanks!!!

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Rosslyn O
Rosslyn O2 months ago

‘Although both parents share in the overall responsibility of educating the children, the mother is given recognition as the first educator of humanity, and she must be carefully prepared for this task. Her education is more necessary and important than that of man, for woman is the trainer of the child from its infancy. If she be defective and imperfect herself the child will necessarily be deficient; therefore imperfection of woman implies a condition of imperfection in all mankind, for it is the mother who rears, nurtures and guides the growth of the child. For this reason, the education of each child is compulsory. If there is not money enough in a family to educate both the girl and the boy the money must be dedicated to the girl's education, for she is the potential mother.’ Baha'i Faith Writings NOTE there is nothing that refers to colour in this statement.... all children are equal and should all be given the chance of achieving their goals.

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Margie FOURIE
Margie F2 months ago

I wouldnt imagine so. Everyone seems to have their hands out for money.

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