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Justice asks for time to review schools' desegregation request

CLEVELAND — The U.S. Department of Justice has asked a judge for more time to respond to the Cleveland School District’s plan to desegregate two local schools.

The school district is not opposing the request.

The school district filed a proposal in May with the federal court to desegregate the East Side High School and D.M. Smith Middle School.

The Bolivar Commercial reports the school system wants to introduce magnet programs at both schools to help attract white students from Cleveland High School and Margaret Green Jr. High School.

Magnet schools have a specific theme or mission that drives their curriculum, such as fine arts or science. Magnet schools still must be racially balanced.

In a motion filed this past week, U.S. Attorney Felicia Adams said that the government “lacks confidence” in the district’s proposal but wants to see enrollment figures.

The school district and the government agree on an Aug. 20 deadline for providing the enrollment figures.

The desegregation case dates back to 1965 when plaintiffs sued the Bolivar County school system, including Cleveland, to end white only and black-only schools.

The school system has been under the federal courts oversight ever since.

In 2011, the school district petitioned the court to remove it from federal oversight.

In the mid- to late-1960s, school districts across the South were sued for discrimination and given desegregation orders, which put them under the scrutiny of the Justice Department. A dozen or more school systems in Mississippi have petitioned the federal courts to come out from under such orders.

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