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Mississippi School District Openly Practices Segregation

Mississippi School District Openly Practices Segregation

Some forty years after being ordered by the court to stop segregation practices, the Walthall County School District in rural Mississippi still routinely allows white students to transfer out of their district despite the fact that it radically shifts the racial make up of its schools.

And that’s not all.

Although assigning students to schools based on race is not permitted under the law, Walthall, like many school districts, has an open enrollment policy that allows families to apply for permission to attend schools outside their designated attendance area, or in another school district. Desegregation laws require school districts to cap open enrollment in order to maintain racial balance within their district. Walthall simply doesn’t do that.

In fact, the Walthall district allows administrators within its schools to segregate children by grouping mostly white students into their own classrooms resulting in grade level classes that were all black at every grade level.

Walthall has a long history of issues with school segregation and of ignoring federal orders to desegregate. The first court order came in 1970, but in the late 1980′s, federal authorities found that segregation was still on going. Though the school district made some changes in the 1990′s, according to the Department of Justice, segregation practices were not only still occurring, but also that the problem in Walthall was growing worse.

In 2009 Walthall and the federal government reached a tentative agreement that addressed some of the issues with open enrollment, and the practice of assigning students to classrooms based on race. But problems continued.

Recently U.S. District Court Judge Tom Lee ordered Walthall to limit out of district transfers significantly, and to employ software programs that would randomly assign students to classes rather than have school officials do it themselves.

Walthall officials are not publicly commenting. How could they? Racism is not defensible.

It’s not even all that uncommon. I taught in a middle school in Iowa where white students made up the bulk of all AP (advanced placement) classes, despite the fact there were equally as many black students who were qualified. I fought the counseling office on a routine basis to move qualified black students into my AP classes, but I was frequently stymied by the fact that these classes were overcrowded — usually with students who had been assigned to the AP sections because of parental pressure on the school, rather than their actual ability.

In the 21st century it is a mistake to believe that racism isn’t still a problem in our public school system. And Walthall is not the only place were prejudice still exists.

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photo credit: studentsforhumanity by frerieke

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70 comments

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5:42AM PDT on May 10, 2010

@ DeborahK - If you're still reading this, I disagree. As I said, the rich in every corner of the world oppress the poor. They do it to their own race and others indiscriminately, the only difference is that when one race do it to another race they use race as yet another stick to beat them with (as I have already said). The fact that white people have been dominant around the world does not change the fact that there are oppressors and oppressed around the world and that the rich will oppress the poor no matter their skin colour. You only have to look at the current situation in Greece to know what I'm talking about.

And my child's education has already been derailed by the fact that many Bengali families in London feel no need to teach their children English before sending them to school, so before even attempting to teach children to read or write the school has to teach them English, thereby holding my child back by a year! And before you ask if the families can speak English, the answer is a resounding YES - because they all manage to communicate with the English teachers.

If an entire racial group refuse to integrate into the larger society into which they have placed themselves, who are the racists?

Your comments make me think that your main concern is African-Americans (which given subject of the original article is understandable) but the fact that all sorts of other races experience racism every day - and not just at the hands of white people! - is som

7:08PM PDT on May 2, 2010

Natasha: As will should have read from my comment I do not speak of racism; I mention it only in quotes as it is used by others. "Racism" is an ad hominem and conclusory word that explains nothing. Globally, people of color are subjected to the power of the dominant culture which quite successfully uses assimilators to exert the former's power over the "other." If your child's future (as a function of her whiteness) is ultimately short-circuited by her not-white classmates, that will be an historical oddity.

8:51AM PDT on Apr 26, 2010

Let us not forget tho, it is a 2 way street. Although, I agree
with letting others make their own decisions, I do also,
agree that 'ALL' peoples need to leave the pasts of anger
behind from old wounds, we have all been hurt deeply!
Try and bury the hatchet once and for all, and let's try
and live together as peacefully as we can. There
are a lot more things to worry about now, and more
dangerous things going on, that can harm the Whole
human race and animal race and the Lands that
we live on, that needs our attention and help
as a WHOLE!!!!!
Thanks! :-)

8:38AM PDT on Apr 26, 2010

What I just read, and correct me if I am wrong,
the School did not say that the whites/blacks..
or any other color could not go to the school,
they simply seem to be giving the rights to
the parents to make the Decisions of where
they are more comfortable of having their
children go! Yes, some of the parents may be predjudiced,
but, at the same time, when we force people to be where
they don't want to be, doesn't it create more 'rebellious'
and 'hateful' acts?!
I remember when I was still in high school, and the first time
they started intergrating all of us, me...I did not care, cause,
I am a military brat..and used to meeting people from everywhere, but, to others it mattered, and wow, was
it a VIOLENT and Dangerous month for us at the school!!!!
Talk about retaliations on all sides of the sticks!!!
It took a good Year and a Half for us not to worry about
who was going to start what with whom!
Forcing is Dangerous!!! It really should be allowed to be
the parents decisions, and if the children are old enough,
they can discuss it with their parents, and it can become
the Child's decision as well!
Thanks for sharing the Article.

8:45AM PDT on Apr 25, 2010

"All men are born equal, but some are more equal than others"
G. Orwell.

What a shame that we can't get over our selfrighteous perfection and treat each other with love, kindness and compassion.

8:32AM PDT on Apr 25, 2010

Food for thought

On the main streaming of students...does it work?

What do you think happens when a third of your students speak English as a second language, a third of your class has ADHD, and a third of your class is regular students most of which have parents that does not think that education is that important. Now throw in some gang culture and what a wonderful learning environment to be expose too.

Now, as two/ thirds of your student require special resources so that they can function appropriately; however, in actual practice, the norm for these kids is not that high which is understandable concerning that some are trying to read science in another language, or trying to read when they are unable to focus...now the question become how does this affect the other one/third....then the question becomes...is 2/3 of the class doing social harm to the 1/3.

Now the issue is....Why is my child being pulled down...is it simply because we would like an idealized world. Is it simply because some people feel that their values are better than others, is it because so many people on both sides is intolerant of each other's values.

Does the good of the all delimit the needs of the one. Must one individual's dignity and potential be given up in order for another individual to have dignity

Is there prejudices in the south....you bet there is; however, it is not all about race. In fact a lot of the time it is simply about people not being enough pragmatic

10:54PM PDT on Apr 24, 2010

there are bad people of all races and good people of all races. color has nothing to do with anything, it is the type of person,and your actions that matter

9:42PM PDT on Apr 24, 2010

I think that this issue should be addressed by the State's Attorney General.

7:57PM PDT on Apr 24, 2010

TO HARRY...I WILL ASUME THAT YOU ARE NOT BEING DISINGENUOUS EVEN IF YOU ARE UNABLE TO AFFORD ME THE BASIC COURTESY OF NOT SLANDING MY CHARACTER.

YOU ARE BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE AS YOU ARE PREACHING TO THE CHOIR....WHAT YOU ARE SAYING IS ALL WELL AND GOOD... THAT IS IF YOU ARE PEOPLE WILLING TO CHANGE; HOWEVER, WHEN YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO CHANGE THEN THE SIGNS OF THAT IS RESISTENCE AND ANGER. AND NO AMOUNT OF SHARING AND CARING...IS GOING TO CHANGE THAT. .

5:18PM PDT on Apr 24, 2010

"The black man expectation is that the white has done him in and will do so in the future which I generally believe is also true . Thereby the black man is angry. Of course anger then fuels a hostile world. A world that I don't want my child to be part of as he/she should not have to be vilified just because she is white and has done no one harm. So I want her/him to be in a better environment ..."

At some level, this strikes me as a bit naive if not a bit disingenuous. Of course there is residual anger over an extensive history of slavery and racism. What victim does not resent being treated in less than human ways?

But the answer to this problem is NOT to blame the victim for a "hostile environment," particulary when that environment is the result of white racism. Rather, the only way to ever get past abstract constructions of the other is to come to know the other. Hear their stories. Learn about their dreams, hopes, pains and fears. Discover their humanity and perhaps discover your own in the process.

The example of Desmond Tutu and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa suggests that revenge and retribution are not inevitable, that peoples can be reconciled to each other even after years of evil done to one group by the other. It's time to stop making excuses and deal with the problem. Admittedly, I live in a majority/minority county in Florida which has come a long way in dealing with its racist past.

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