Panola schools’ populations reflect those in Cleveland

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Panola schools’  populations reflect those in Cleveland

Rupert Howell
Managing Editor
Why is a federal judge’s ruling on the Cleveland School District (forcing further integration) important to us in Panola County?
I think it should be, and here is why.
East Side High School in Cleveland has virtually all black students. Cleveland High School’s racial makeup is approximately 45 percent black and white with a smattering of other races making the difference.
Media from throughout the country blasted the school district and the state of Mississippi for that matter, stating that after 50 years segregation abounded in that school district.
The judge wrote that after 50 years the district, “deprived generations of students of constitutionally guaranteed right of an integrated education.”
Those my age remember the story. The federal government in the 1960s and ‘70s began enforcing the laws by making schools integrate races. It worked in some areas, but in others, it accentuated the problem of segregation due to the schools’ white population fleeing public schools and establishing their own private schools and academies—especially in the Mississippi Delta.
Locations where the white population remained and weathered the cultural change with a large segment of the local communities supporting public schools, generally did well. Those communities where large segments of the white population abandoned their allegiance to public education suffered.
The City of Cleveland, often referred to as a the “Jewel of the Delta,” is a town of 12,000 and home to Delta State University. It has more going for it than many of the other Delta locales that are showing signs of neglect and abandonment. At least part of the reason Cleveland continues to hold its head above water is due to the school system, and, of course, DSU.
The situation is not unlike the difference in public schools in Panola County. North Panola is virtually all black while South Panola is mixed, not unlike Cleveland High School. The main difference is that our local schools are in separate school districts, North Panola and South Panola.
As the Mississippi Legislature attempts to trim spending and consolidate schools, it is not completely out of the question that one day they will be forced to consolidate. North Panola has been taken over twice by the State Department of Education and a third takeover could mean additional sanctions or rearranging the district into other districts.
If, and that’s a big if, that should ever occur, why would the same ruling that affects Cleveland and its two high schools not effect those in Panola?
Writer Richard Fausset with the New York Times asked the question, “Should Cleveland fight to maintain the present level of integration achieved, or should it accept the federal government’s more vigorous efforts to pursue full integration?”
This is not a column about race; this a column about forcing a population to do something that has proven not to work.

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