Judge gives Justice more time to review school plan

CLEVELAND — A federal judge says he will rule after the first of the year on proposals to desegregate two schools in the Cleveland School District.

The Bolivar Commercial reports U.S. District Judge Glenn H. Davidson told attorneys after a hearing in Oxford that he wanted to give the Department of Justice time to review and respond to information provided by the school district.

The school district filed a study from Dr. Christine Rossell on the integration of schools from the McComb School District and the Lincoln County Parish School District in Louisiana and the DOJ objected to the study citing not having time to thoroughly review it.

“I am granting an extension until the first of the year for the U.S. Department of Justice to review Dr. Rossell’s study and file any objections,” said Davidson. “I will then make a decision on this according to the law and the Constitution of the United States.”

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

The school system wanted 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 September, the Justice Department objected to the plan. It claims the district’s proposal would “not integrate East Side and D.M. Smith as a whole, but to create insular magnet programs in each school that meet specified demographic targets,” U.S. Attorney Felicia C. Adams wrote in the objection.

The government wants Davidson to order the school district to come with a new plan that “ensures East Side and D.M. Smith will be fully integrated by the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.”

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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