50-Year-Old School Segregation Case Comes to a Head in Alabama

An Alabama school district reached an agreement in a case that's been open since the 1960s.

An Alabama school district closes a long-time segregation case.

(Photo: Rebecca Cook/Reuters)
Jun 27, 2012

A school segregation lawsuit that has been open in Fort Payne, Alabama for over 50 years has finally come to a close after the district agreed to hire more non-white teachers, Reuters reports. Lee v. Mason County Board of Education was originally filed in 1963 during protests over the segregation of schools.

In 1974, the district’s desegregation progress was found to have met the law’s requirements. In 2006, however, the hiring of non-white faculty was found not to be in compliance with the law. Reuters reports:

The school employed no black administrators and four black teachers out of 199 for approximately 3,100 students, of which 116 are black, according to the district's enrollment and staff information for 2011-12.

This is not the only school segregation lawsuit that has been left open. In fact, Justice Department officials said this case is among hundreds of open desegregation lawsuits across the country. ABC reported on a lawsuit that came to a head in Mississippi in 2010:

Federal District Judge Thomas Lee agreed with the Justice Department's claim that the school administration was transferring mostly white students out of district to a "racially identifiable white school," while the enrollment in their home district "has become predominantly black."

Earlier this year, the Department of Justice and the Department of Education released new K-12 and higher education guidelines to explain how race may legally be taken into account when making decisions about student assignments and admissions. The guidelines describe how schools can employ “race-neutral” approaches such as socioeconomic statistics, parental education levels, and neighborhood housing information to draw attendance zones and make admissions decisions.

Currently, most of the students who are transferring into Fort Payne District are white. As part of the agreement, the school district will be required to reform it’s policy for student transfers. According to Reuters, the district was given a timeline of two years to adhere to the policies.

How do you feel about modern-day school segregation? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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