On July 25, 1965, students of the Bolivar County Board of Education filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi under Title IV and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The lawsuit was against the Bolivar County Board of Education; plaintiffs sought for preliminary and permanent injunctions to end the compulsory biracial school system. Various plans were submitted until, on July 22, 1969, Judge Keady entered an Order requiring that the dual system be dismantled and its effects be eliminated, and outlined expectations for desegregation.
In 1985, the United States was allowed to intervene in the lawsuit; it alleged the school district was not compliant with the 1969 order. After negotiations, a consent order was entered on September 25, 1989 that described, in detail, expectations, including adding a majority-to-minority transfer program to correct student desegregation issues, a magnet program, and equivalent course offerings and faculty assignment.
On May 2, 2011, the United States filed a motion for further relief requesting that the Court enforce its prior desegregation orders. The government said that, in reviews conducted between 2006 and 2008, it found numerous violations of the past orders, especially in the areas of student and faculty assignment. The District argued that it was in good faith compliance. In an order entered on March 28, 2012, the court found that the government had taken good faith steps to limit a racially identifiable school system, but had not yet eradicated it. The court ordered the parties to create a plan to further integrate the school district in terms of faculty and student assignment.
On January 24, 2013, the court entered an opinion approving the District's plan to establish an open enrollment system, in which a student could enroll in either of the two junior high schools and either of the two high schools, whereas previously enrollment was divided into two zones and students could transfer out of their assigned school only if she would be of a minority in the school to which she would transfer. The approved plan would also establish a magnet program at each high school. The District's plan was approved over the objection of the government, which would have rather had the court consolidate the system into one junior high school and one high school.
On July 1, 2013, the United States appealed the denial of a motion to alter the judgment, and on June 2, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed the January 24, 2013 opinion of the District Court. The Court of Appeals stated that the District Court never explained why consolidating the schools would be problematic, especially when only two of each school type exist in close distance to one another. The Court of Appeals also pointed out that the previous majority-to-minority transfer program showed that no white students were choosing to enroll in the majority African American school, and so wanted an explanation as to how an open enrollment system would have a different result and eliminate racially identifiable schools. The court did not think an open enrollment plan inadequate, but remanded the case with an order that the District Court examine alternatives and explain its reasoning.
When the case was back to the District Court, Judge Davidson issued an order recusing himself from this action and the case was later assigned to Judge Brown.
Judge Brown set specific deadline for each party to submit proposal and conduct discoveries. On May 13th, 2016, the Court entered the judgment. In the opinion, the court closely examined and analyzed the three plans proposed by both parties: (1) the District’s preferred Plan A, (2) the District’s alternative Plan B, and (3) the U.S. Plan.
Plan A sought to continue Judge Davidson’s open enrollment plan.
Plan B created a system where the District would assign every student to East Side High and then re-open Cleveland High as a “STEM magnet with local arts partnerships.” The admission for the Cleveland High will be determined by a computer lottery. East Side High would operate the IB program and the early college program described in Plan A.
The United States’ plan required the simultaneous consolidation of the District’s high schools and the District’s middle schools.
The court made clear that the standard for a district court to decide a desegregation case is to sort through the various proposed remedies, exclude those that are inadequate or infeasible and adopt the one that is most likely to achieve the desegregation. In considering the proper means to desegregate the District, the Court concludes that the District’s Plan A was inadequate to desegregate the schools, and that Plan B was inadequate and infeasible.
The court adopted the United States' plan. The court further directed both parties to submit to a proposed timeline to implement the United States’ plan in such a way as to ensure the immediate termination of the District’s dual system in its high schools and middle schools.
On August 16th, 2016, the district court denied the District's motion to modify the desegregation order. On July 1, the District filed a notice of appeal with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the Court’s desegregation order on May 13, 2016.
On September 29th, the district court denied District's motion to stay the order and deferred the district's motion for reconsideration of the order pending an evidentiary hearing.
The case is ongoing. Claire Lally - 11/25/2014
Sihang Zhang - 10/27/2016