On May 17th, 1954, the US Supreme Court handed down their findings in the case of ‘Brown vs the Board of Education,’ which asserted that segregation between white and black students in schools had no place in United States education. The ruling, a historic landmark in the civil rights movement, asserted that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” which formally brought an end to segregation in schools.

The following year, in a case dubbed ‘Brown II,’ the Supreme Court delegated the task of desegregating public educational facilities to local district courts; a task which was to be carried out “with all deliberate speed.”

The vague wording of this particular ruling proved to be something of a red rag to a bull for certain stubborn southern states and regions, who used the indeterminate timeframe to stall desegregation for considerable amounts of time; some as much as a decade. Eventually, however, all resisting school districts were forced by court order to desegregate, and allow the co-mingling of black and white students in public schools, ending the reckless and deliberate financial disadvantage placed specifically on black students.

‘Course, there’s always one exception to every rule.

As it turns out, a town in western Mississippi has been resisting the call to desegregate their public schools right up until this very day.

The town of Cleveland, which sits about a half hour drive from the Arkansas border, has been doggedly trying to avoid desegregating in a legal stoush that’s lasted some 50-odd years.

The town itself is neatly divided, almost bisected, by an abandoned arm of the Illinois Central Railroad, and those tracks have perennially divided the town, both geographically, racially, and socioeconomically. To the east of the tracks resides a predominantly black community, which to this day suffers from poverty, poor living conditions, and schools that are seen as providing fewer educational opportunities than standard. To the west of the tracks is a much more white-based community, with schools perceived as being better funded and staffed.

And the statistics don’t lie, either. A clear racial divide in student bodies is observable. The schools to the east are virtually all-black, whilst the schools to the west enrol students that are “at least 20 percent more white than the [general] student population.”

This past Friday, US Federal Court ruled that the schools must consolidate their student bodies, after Judge Debra Brown rejected two proposed alternatives as being unconstitutional.

The proposal to integrate the town’s schools has been a collaborative effort from parents, coaches, teachers, and community leaders, and the ruling means the town will have to combine its secondary schools for the first time in its 100-odd year history.

But the ruling is not exactly being welcomed, with the Cleveland school board considering filing an appeal after (some) students themselves apparently objected to desegregating; it’s feared, amongst those with the inclination to do so, that combining the city’s schools will create something of a “white flight” amongst precious white students who would flee the public school system for the privates.

Judge Brown gave the school board 21-days to come up with a viable proposed timeline for integration, in a 96-page ruling that tore the town a new one for holding out this long.

“The delay in desegregation has deprived generations of students of the constitutionally-guaranteed right of an integrated education. Although no court order can right these wrongs, it is the duty of the District to ensure that not one more student suffers under this burden.”

“This failure, whether born of good faith, bad faith, or some combination of the two, has placed Cleveland in the unenviable position of operating under a desegregation order long after schools in bastions of segregation like Boston, Jackson, and Mobile have been declared unitary.”

There are currently 177 school systems in the United States still involved in resisting desegregation efforts. Of these holdouts, almost half are in Alabama and Mississippi alone.

Source: News.com.au.