There are 32 school districts in Mississippi still under federal desegregation orders.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division spoke Thursday at a community meeting in Lexington, Mississippi at the latest stop on her “listening tour” throughout the Deep South. She said that even in 2023, the federal government must work to ensure that Black students are receiving equal education opportunities.
“In our ongoing efforts to fulfill the promise of Brown vs. Board of Education, we currently have 32 open cases with school districts here in Mississippi. And in each of those cases, we are working to ensure that these districts comply with desegregation orders from courts," Clarke said.
Mississippi is home to the highest percentage of Black residents out of any state in the country. Beyond schools, Clarke noted that five prisons and jails in the state are also being investigated by the federal government.
An ongoing federal lawsuit from Lexington residents claims that local police have “terrorized” Black residents through false arrests, excessive force, and intimidation. Civil rights organization JULIAN is seeking a temporary restraining order against the Lexington police department for the town’s majority Black population.
Clarke noted at the community meeting that her office is investing the claims brought in the lawsuit. Jill Collen Jefferson, president of JULIAN, said that she hopes Clarke will follow through and hold the department accountable, and that her organzation plans to also file a class action lawsuit against the police department in the following months.
“What I hope she’ll do is seriously address the issues. Not gloss over them, say that she has heard about these violations, talk about them in detail and say that it is wrong if it is happening,” she said, adding, “Hate and bigotry are sadly on the rise."