Ruling coming in Simpson County schools case

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JACKSON – Attorneys argued Tuesday about whether the Simpson County School District should be released from a 34-year-old federal desegregation order.

Before U.S. District Judge William H. Barbour Jr., counsel Suzanne G. Keys questioned the district’s human resources director, Elizabeth Christian, about whether court-mandated policies were followed in filling numerous job vacancies since the court’s 2014 hearing on similar issues.

Unsuccessful job applicant Habray Carter of Drew, who is black and had been top-rated for a coach-teacher position, testified he had never met two of three school district individuals who were said to have interviewed him for the position.

Jackson attorney John Hooks, representing the district, raised numerous objections to Keys’ questions. Barbour at one stage told her, “You’re going about this thing backwards.”

Simpson County Schools has one more hurdle to jump – on recruiting and hiring practices – before it’s out from under a court order relating to racial discrimination. The district says it deserves to gain “unitary status,” which means federal court scrutiny is lifted after years of legal supervision in all aspects of school district activities.

Barbour said he expects to rule Wednesday after additional testimony from both sides, as well as closing arguments.