Walthall County schools ordered to desegregate - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Walthall County schools ordered to desegregate

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By Cheryl Lasseter - bio | email

TYLERTOWN, MS (WLBT) - 75 percent of the student population at Tylertown High School is black. 75 percent of the population at Salem Attendance Center is white. For the past few decades, transfers have been granted upon request for students to attend the school they desire, despite a 1970 court order that re-drew school zone lines to desegregate the schools.

But now, the U.S. Justice Department is ordering strict adherence to those lines.

Parents aren't taking it well.

"It's eight miles to this school.  It's almost 18 to Tylertown to where they'd be going to school," said Mark Planche, a Salem Attendance Center parent.

"I don't want my child to... be scared to go to school," said parent Pamela Broom.

Parents said plenty of black and white students chose to attend Salem because it's smaller and closer to their houses.

U.S. District Judge Tom Lee's order takes effect next school year.  The order affects all students except next year's seniors and the following: students who can demonstrate their health or safety is in jeopardy, those with a substantial non-medical hardship, those who have a parent working at the receiving school, or those who want to transfer to a school where they will be a racial minority.

District Superintendent Danny McCallum said test scores are similar at both schools, and both are in danger of failing.

The court order came abruptly for him as he's trying to absorb budget shortfalls and preserve jobs.

"This is gonna change a lot of things.  It may be.  We'll probably have to move some teachers from Salem to Tylertown, wherever the numbers are," he said. 

WLBT asked if he believed the transfer system had been working well.  "I would say yes.  For both black and white families, exactly."

The court order also mandates that classrooms become racially desegregated.

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