Desegregation ruling says Cleveland must merge schools

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – A federal judge says Mississippi’s Cleveland school district must merge its high schools and middle schools to achieve racial desegregation.

U.S. District Judge Debra Brown handed down the ruling late Friday, nearly a year after she held a week-long hearing on the subject.

The U.S. Justice Department had sought the merger, saying Cleveland was illegally maintaining high schools and middle schools that were racially identifiable as black or white.

District officials had argued that they had successfully desegregated a number of elementary schools using magnet programs, and noted that even the “white” high school and middle school have student bodies that are roughly half black. Local leaders opposed combining the schools, saying they feared white parents in the Mississippi Delta district would flee to private schools.