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Case Name Montgomery v. Starkville Municipal Separate School District SD-MS-0024
Docket / Court 1:83-cv-00293-MPM ( N.D. Miss. )
Additional Docket(s) 69-37a  [ 69-37 ]
State/Territory Mississippi
Case Type(s) School Desegregation
Case Summary
This is a school desegregation case arising out of Starkville, Mississippi. Plaintiffs, black students and their families, filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi and alleged that Starkville maintained a dual educational system that was segregated on the basis ... read more >
This is a school desegregation case arising out of Starkville, Mississippi. Plaintiffs, black students and their families, filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi and alleged that Starkville maintained a dual educational system that was segregated on the basis of relief. They sought injunctive relief from the court to eliminate the dual system.

The case was first filed in 1969 as Bell v. Starkville Municipal School District, and given the docket number 69-37a. The claims against the City of Starkville and Oktibbeha County were severed into two discrete cases: Harris v. Oktibbeha County School District and Montgomery v. Starkville Separate School District.

On August 7, 1969, District Judge Orma R. Smith entered an order directing Starkville to prepare a desegregation plan to be filed with the court for the 1970-1971 school year. This plan was disapproved by Judge Smith and Starkville was instructed to submit a new plan in January 1970. Permanent injunctive relief was granted to the plaintiffs in February 1970. The court ordered that Starkville officials work to immediately begin operating a unitary school system as required by the Supreme Court in Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education, 396 U.S. 19 (1969) and Carter v. West Feliciana School Board, 396 U.S. 290 (1970). Prior to this date, Starkville had two high schools (one white and one black), two junior high/middle schools (one white and one black), and four elementary schools (two white and two black). The teachers and school administrators were also almost completely segregated. After this order, students and faculty in Starkville were reassigned to achieve desegregation.

According to a 1987 opinion, the plaintiffs asked the court for additional injunctive relief approximately a year after desegregation commenced. The plaintiffs asked that Starkville file semi-annual reports with the court to monitor Starkville's compliance with the 1970 order. This motion was sustained on November 29, 1971.

There was an additional case filed in the Northern District of Mississippi in 1971 related to this matter entitled Armstead v. Starkville Municipal Separate School District, which dealt with Starkville's discrimination against its black teachers. Relief was granted to the teachers and Starkville was ordered to stop its discriminatory practices denying black teachers reemployment at a higher rate than their white peers. 325 F. Supp. 560 (N.D. Miss. 1971).

Starkville filed a motion to dissolve the injunctions in 1978. This motion was withdrawn by Starkville three years later after the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) withheld complete approval of the system. OCR got involved with the case after the NAACP filed a complaint with them in 1979 and alleged that Starkville's student grouping practices were being used to maintain a dual education system. After the complaint was filed, OCR recommended a number of changes that were implemented by Starkville. As a result, OCR cleared Starkville of all claims brought in the NAACP complaint in 1982.

The plaintiffs filed another request for relief in 1983 and alleged that Starkville had not achieved a unitary school system. (At this point the case was given a new docket number, 1:83-cv-00293-MPM.) District Judge L.T. Senter, Jr. held that the plaintiffs did not establish that Starkville teachers were unequally compensated based on race; plaintiffs did not establish that Starkville has dismissed or demoted teachers based on race; plaintiffs did not establish that Starkville recruited new teachers based on race; Starkville did not maintain a dual system through its system of achievement grouping even though its use of achievement grouping was deemed to be statistically abnormal; and Starkville's program for creative students was not discriminatory. However, the court held that Starkville did not rebut an inference of discrimination in a program for gifted students. As a result, the court ordered that Starkville create new entrance requirement procedures for this program and the court had to approve the procedures before they were implemented. 665 F. Supp. 487 (N.D. Miss. 1987).

The plaintiffs then appealed the district court's decision to the Fifth Circuit. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision and held that Starkville's achievement grouping system and gifted programs were not discriminatory. 854 F.2d 127 (5th Cir. 1988). Attorney's fees were awarded to the plaintiffs' attorneys in the amount of $23,537.50 in 1989. The plaintiffs also received expert witness fees for $8707.17 for a total award of $32,244.67. The parties cross-appealed, but later dismissed their motions.

In 1988, the United States intervened in a case against Oktibbeha County School District. The United States interpleaded Starkville because there were allegations that Starkville was allowing students living in the Oktibbeha County School District to jump district lines and attend school in Starkville. Starkville was dismissed from the case by Judge Senter after discovery turned up no proof that these allegations were true. The United States continued to be involved in the case as of March 2017.

Starkville submitted annual reports to the court throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. On November 14, 2014, Starkville filed a joint motion with the Oktibbeha County School District to consolidate their desegregation cases. The Mississippi State Legislature passed a law mandating that the two school districts be consolidated, so the districts wanted their cases consolidated in order to submit a joint desegregation plan so the districts could continue to be in compliance with their respective desegregation orders. This motion was granted by District Judge Michael P. Mills on January 14, 2015.

On March 17, 2015, the districts filed a motion for the court to approve their desegregation plan for the new, consolidated school district. The parties, working with the U.S. Department of Justice, submitted a joint desegregation order for the consolidated school district. The desegregation order assigned students to schools within the new Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District, set out provisions for faculty and staff assignments, described how school construction/site selection will be carried out to prevent a recurrence of a dual school system, contained transportation provisions describing bus transportation within the district, implemented a majority-to-minority transfer policy, described inter-district transfer policies, addressed integration of extracurricular activities, established a biracial advisory committee, pledged to use Mississippi State Department of Education screening guidelines to identify academically gifted students, and vowed to continue to file annual reports with the court. Judge Mills approved this desegregation order on July 13, 2015.

An amended desegregation order was signed by Judge Mills on March 3, 2016. It included many provisions similar to the 2015 order, but expanded some of its provisions and added details about how the parties would resolve disputes amongst themselves before seeking the court's assistance and how the court will continue to monitor the case until the district achieves unitary status.

This case is ongoing.

Available Opinions
Montgomery v. Starkville Mun. Separate Sch. Dist., 665 F. Supp. 487 (N.D. Miss. 1987).
Montgomery v. Starkville Mun. Separate Sch. Dist., 854 F.2d 127 (5th Cir. 1988).

Amelia Huckins - 03/07/2017

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Discrimination Prohibition
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
Preliminary relief denied
Student assignment
Elementary/Secondary School
Race discrimination
Disparate Treatment
Language/ethnic/minority needs
Racial segregation
School/University Facilities
School/University policies
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
Defendant(s) Starkville Municipal Separate School District
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs are black students and their families residing in Starkville and Oktibbeha County, Mississippi.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 1970 - n/a
Filing Year 1969
Case Ongoing Yes
1:83-cv-00293-MPM (N.D. Miss.)
SD-MS-0024-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/30/1969
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
1:83-cv-00293 (N.D. Miss.)
SD-MS-0024-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/22/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Memorandum Opinion (665 F.Supp. 487) (N.D. Miss.)
SD-MS-0024-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/08/1987
Source: Westlaw
Memorandum Opinion (854 F.2d 127)
SD-MS-0024-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/09/1988
Source: Westlaw
Annual Report to the Court [ECF# 4]
SD-MS-0024-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/30/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
2015 Desegregation Order [ECF# 26] (N.D. Miss.)
SD-MS-0024-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/13/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
2016 Desegregation Order [ECF# 34] (N.D. Miss.)
SD-MS-0024-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/03/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Mills, Michael P. (N.D. Miss.) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0024-0002 | SD-MS-0024-0003 | SD-MS-0024-9001
Senter, Lyonel Thomas Jr. (N.D. Miss.) show/hide docs
Van Graafeiland, Ellsworth Alfred (Second Circuit) show/hide docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Breen-Portnoy, Ceala Eloise (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Colom, Wilbur O. (Mississippi) show/hide docs
Jondahl, Andrew Kuffel (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
McNamee, Victoria (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Mitchell, Beverley (Mississippi) show/hide docs
Defendant's Lawyers Adams, Holmes S. (Mississippi) show/hide docs
Hooks, John Simeon (Mississippi) show/hide docs
Jones, Bennie L. Jr. (Mississippi) show/hide docs
McAlpin, Dolton W. (Mississippi) show/hide docs

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