Leake Co. parents oppose school consolidation plans - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Leake Co. parents oppose school consolidation plans

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CARTHAGE, Miss. (WLBT) – The U.S. Justice Dept. has found another Mississippi school district defying more than 40 year old federal desegregation orders.

Tuesday night parents upset about consolidation and school closures in Leake Co. met to voice their concerns.

"Just to do this here just for the reason of integration is just plain silly," said Cleophus Bright during the Justice Department public meeting at Carthage Elementary School.

Hundreds packed the school assembly hall with dozens standing in the doorway to hear what government officials had to say about the future of the school district.

Cheers followed Bright's comments as many parents said they weren't concerned about the racial disparity of the Leake Co. schools.

Federal officials began investigating racial segregation in the district in 2007 and determined that the school system has continued to violate the 1969 desegregation order.

But that is not a problem for many.

"It's not about the race. We welcome them all. We can move the lines, bring more to Edinburg that will be perfectly fine with us. We just want to keep our school together and not have to transport our kids so far to get an education," said Edinburg parent Denise Thornton.

"As far as the segregation law at the school that's not right. Right now up above Thomastown there's plenty of white folks, but they choose to send their kids to private schools. We can't stop it because it's their right. So why should our school get shut down?" asked Thomastown parent Deshawn Earnest.

590 students currently go to Edinburg Attendance Center.

The K-12 school is 80 percent white.

There are 378 children at Thomastown Attendance Center.

It is also K-12 and is 98 percent black.

Both schools have been targeted for closure.

Leake Co. District officials said plans require students living north of the Pearl River to attend Carthage schools, while students living south of the Pearl River will attend South Leake schools.

"These are community schools. They mean a lot to them, and they have a lot of value placed on them.

"I feel for them, but we hope that if we do have to do this consolidation move that we can offer our students some opportunities they don't have now," said Leake County Superintendent Monte Ladner.

"The board continues to operate four schools that remain racially identifiable based on student assignments, faculty assignments, facilities, extracurricular activities and quality of education," said attorney Krishna K. Juvvadi with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Juvvadi made his comments during a presentation to the audience on the government's findings after investigating the school district.

Parents told the school board and federal officials they did not want to change.

They cited longer bus rides for their kids, a loss of tradition and in some cases a lesser quality education.

The Justice Dept. will take all comments into consideration, but officials said plans for consolidation could begin next school year.

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