The State of Mississippi Sued for Failing to Provide Equal Education for African American Students

Pascal Mnyika
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The state of Mississippi is under fire for allegedly denying good schools to black children with the southern poverty law center filing a suit against the State on Tuesday.

Reports show that the overall education performance ranks the state 51st in the nation. Amid these statistics, it’s evident the black students bear the uneven burden of education in the state.

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The Southern Poverty Law Centre explained that all 19 Mississippi school districts rated “F” by the Department of Education of Mississippi and have an overwhelming number of African-American students, while the state’s five highest-performing school districts primarily consist of white students.

The lawsuit which was filed on behalf of four African-American mothers with children in public elementary schools asserts that this inequality is a breach of the federal law that enabled the state to rejoin the Union after the Civil War.

The law firm is requesting a federal judge to force state leaders to conform to the 1870 law, which states that Mississippi must never deprive any citizen of the “school rights and privileges.” Aside from the implicit school separation at play here, the fact that the lawsuit is, in 2017, soliciting state compliance with a nearly one-hundred-fifty-year-old law which says Mississippi must never deprive any citizen of the “school rights and privileges,” is worrying.

The lawsuit further claims that the schools attended by the plaintiffs’ children “lack textbooks, literature, basic supplies, experienced teachers, sports and other extracurricular activities, tutoring programs, and even things as basic as toilet paper.”
SPLC claims that in a white supremacist effort to prevent the education of blacks, the state has effectively watered down education protections that guarantee a “uniform system of free public schools” for all children. “From 1890 until the present day, Mississippi repeatedly has amended its education clause and has used those amendments to systematically and deliberately deprive African-Americans of the education rights guaranteed to all Mississippi schoolchildren by the 1868 Constitution,” the suit explains.

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The suit, aimed at the following Republican elected officials: Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, House Speaker Philip Gunn and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, also names the state school Superintendent Carey Wright and the nine appointed members of the state Board of Education as defendants.

The suit adds more misery to the already poorly perceived education system in the state of Mississippi which is already burdened by a lawsuit over the misallocation of statewide public school funding.

Defendants Bryant and Reeves maintain that education in the state is improving under their leadership.

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“This is merely another attempt by the Southern Poverty Law Center to fundraise on the backs of Mississippi taxpayers,” the governor said in a statement. “While the SPLC clings to its misguided and cynical views, we will continue to shape Mississippi’s system of public education into the best and most innovative in America.” Reeves called the SPLC a “fringe organization,” and said it’s “almost laughable” that the legal group is simultaneously trying to “protect the status quo” by challenging efforts to direct public funds to charter schools that would provide more choices to minority students.

“I’m filing this lawsuit because the state has an obligation to make the schools that black kids attend equal to the schools that white kids attend,” said Indigo Williams, a parent of a first-grade boy at Raines Elementary School in West Jackson.

In 1954, with the landmark “Brown v. Board of Education” ruling, the US Supreme Court outlawed the segregation of public schools. It took a decade, with the passing of “The Civil Rights Act” in 1964, that the law was enforced in states and localities across the country. Still, despite many decades of hard-fought efforts for school integration, a 2016 report conducted by The Civil Rights Project, shows a striking return to segregation across the country. The report allegedly shows a disturbing rise in double segregation by race and poverty, revealing that schools with predominately black and Latino populations, consistently perform at lower levels than majority white schools. There is no place that the statistic is evident than in the state of Mississippi.

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It is saddening that it’s 2017 and the fight for separate but equal schooling for black kids is nowhere near being won, It’s a shame really!

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