Cleveland public school students ride the school district bus on their way home.

CLEVELAND – U.S. District Judge Debra Brown entered an order Monday finalizing her May 13, 2016, desegregation order for the Cleveland schools with one change affecting sixth grade students.

Under the order, Brown granted a modification of her original order by allowing the district to have sixth grade students return to attending elementary schools in the district. That request was made in affidavits filed by Cleveland Schools Superintendent Jacquelyn Thigpen.

Under Brown’s original order, sixth through eighth grade students (except for those attending Bell Academy and Hayes Cooper) would have been taught at the East Side High facility, which was being converted into a consolidated middle school.

The new order means students will complete their sixth grade year at Cypress Parks, Pearman and Parks elementary schools.

Last Wednesday, the school district filed a motion to dismiss its appeal of Brown’s original desegregation order with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeals court dismissed the appeal the following day.

Brown’s order brings to an end a tumultuous 10-month period in which the district initially pledged to fight the desegregation order and filed an appeal requesting a stay, proposed several alternatives and finally agreed to abide by the order with the modification involving sixth grade students.

Beginning this fall, the consolidated high school, Cleveland Central High, will house ninth through 12th graders at the former Cleveland High and Margaret Green Junior High facilities. The campus of the district’s other high school facility, East Side High, will serve as the new consolidated middle school, renamed Cleveland Central Middle, for seventh and eighth graders.

Lenden Sanders, a plaintiff in the Cowan and United States of America v Bolivar Board of Education case, said she thinks every child can get afforded the same education at one school under the plan.

“I think this is a good thing,” said Sanders. “Its good for the kids, it’s good for the community and the people.”

Sanders said this is what the plaintiffs have been pushing for, but “it’ll take time for the people to come together” and work everything out.

At a Jan. 30 meeting, the Cleveland school board announced that it was dropping its appeals of the federal judge’s desegregation order and would proceed under the judge’s desegregation plan. During the same meeting, the school board said that it would seek to have its appeals dismissed and it would no longer pursue alternative plans.

The decision came after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ordered hearings on the district’s appeal of the original desegregation order. 

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Aallyah Wright is a native of Clarksdale, and was a Mississippi Delta reporter covering education and local government. She was also a weekly news co-host on WROX Radio (97.5 FM) and collaborator with StoryWorks/Reveal Labs from the Center for Investigative Reporting. Aallyah has a bachelor’s in journalism with minors in communications and theater from Delta State University. She is a 2018 Educating Children in Mississippi Fellow at the Hechinger Report, and co-founder of the Mississippi Delta Public Newsroom.

One reply on “Cleveland school desegregation a go after judge’s order”

  1. Henry Ford once said “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” The Cleveland School District has a long way to go to get to success! The Stakeholders still lack a seat at the decision-making table! Consolidation without reconciliation will never work!

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