Plaintiffs reject Cleveland schools’ latest desegregation plan

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Kate Royals/Mississippi Today

East Side High School in Cleveland

Plaintiffs in the longstanding Cleveland School District desegregation lawsuit will not accept the district’s latest plan to desegregate its schools, ending the possibility of a settlement in the near future.

Plaintiffs and the U.S. Department of Justice have filed notice with the federal disctrict court overseeing the desegregation effort that they continue to support that court’s May 13 order, which assigns all 9th through 12th graders to a single high school in the Cleveland High and Margaret Green facilities, both on the west side of town, and using East Side High School as a middle school for the majority of the district’s 6th through 8th graders.

The plan would be implemented in the 2017-2018 school year.

“We trust that this fair and reasonable plan will effectively integrate the CSD’s (Cleveland School District) middle and high schools, provided a long awaited remedy to the Plaintiffs,” a letter from the plaintiff’s attorney to U.S. District Court stated. “The prospect of further delay and uncertainty is an injustice too great to allow.”

A call to the school district’s attorney Jamie Jacks was not immediately returned Monday.

The district recently came up with a plan which involved housing all 9th and 10th graders on the current East Side High campus, while 11th and 12th graders would be located at Cleveland High. Most 6th through 8th graders would attend Margaret Green Junior High.

The U.S. Department of Justice chimed in with the plaintiff’s attorney in opposition to this plan.

“While the United States appreciates the District’s embrace of consolidation and its attempt to respond to the concerns of the East Side community in the development of its current proposal, Plan E (the latest school district plan) fails to equitably balance the burdens and benefits of desegregation across the Cleveland community, and is both less feasible and less educationally sound than the Court’s Adopted Plan,” a letter from the Justice Department states.

The letter says that the district’s latest plan requires more transitions of students, possibly creating “academic and social difficulties” for them.

The Cleveland School Board voted in July to appeal the court’s plan, and the appeal stills stands.

Despite the appeal and the new plan proposed by the school board, the district is working toward implementation of the May 13 court order.

Steps include the creation of a multiracial advisory panel that met in November, collaborating with community members and organizations such as the local community college and the Delta Arts Alliance, and reviewing staffing needs and repairing and renovating some facilities.

The district is currently about 68 percent African-American and 27 percent white. In previous filings, the district has expressed concerns about potential white flight following integration of the schools.

Following the court order, the district had proposed housing all students at Cleveland High and Margaret Green. Because both campuses are located on the predominantly white west side of town, many black residents objected to the abandonment of the facilities on the east side.