Court Grants Relief for Flagrant Violations of Federal Desegregation Order

WASHINGTON – A federal court has ordered the Walthall County, Miss., School District to eliminate policies that have resulted in significant racial segregation among students in the school district, the Justice Department today announced.

The United States filed a motion on Dec. 21, 2009, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi arguing that the Walthall School District is in flagrant violation of a prior court order from 1970, the Equal Protection Clause and Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"More than 55 years after Brown v. Board of Education, it is unacceptable for school districts to act in a way that encourages or tolerates the resegregation of public schools," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. "We will take action so that school districts subject to federal desegregation orders comply with their obligation to eliminate vestiges of separate black and white schools."

According to the motion, the district's practice of permitting hundreds of students – the vast majority whom are white – to attend schools outside their assigned residential attendance zone without restriction prompted a disproportionate number of white students to attend a single school in the district, leaving a number of other schools disproportionately black.

Indeed, evidence in the case suggested that the community regarded certain schools in the district as "white schools" or "black schools." The United States also asserted that officials in certain district schools grouped, or "clustered," white students together in particular classrooms, resulting in large numbers of all-black classes at every grade level in those schools.

The order issued today by the court requires the district to modify its transfer policy to permit students to transfer to a school outside their residential zone only if the student can demonstrate a compelling justification for the transfer. The court further ordered the district to implement protocols to ensure that students within district schools will hereafter be assigned to classrooms in a manner that will not lead to segregation.

The enforcement of the Equal Protection Clause and Title IV in school districts is a top priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its Web site at