Every so often, a news story calls for the National Campaign to Restore Civil Rights (NCRCR) to acknowledge the value of our system of checks and balances and how important it is to the enforcement of the law. For example, this past month, a federal district court ordered Walthall County, Mississippi to eliminate policies that have resulted in racial segregation among the school district’s students. Judge Tom Lee ordered a small south Mississippi school district to stop allowing hundreds of white students to transfer out of largely black schools, calling the practice a violation of a 1970s desegregation order and federal law. As a result of student transfers, one school became racially identifiable as the ‘white school’ while student enrollment at the other schools had become predominately black. The judicial order calls for the current transfer policies to be reversed, and for the creation of specific guidelines under which student transfers must be approved.
The Department of Justice (DOJ), a federal agency under the executive branch of government, began investigating the Walthall County school district in 2007, and discovered the use of duplicate bus routes to transfer children to different schools. The measure cost the school district about $54,000 a year -- money that clearly should have been spent on education. In addition, the school district allegedly grouped students in individual schools, creating a disproportionate number of white students in certain elementary level classrooms. This resulted in “large numbers of all-black classes at every grade level in those schools.”
Given that the Walthall County School Board had ignored previous directives to stop segregating its schools, the Justice Department called upon the federal court system to remedy the situation, proposing a consent decree to reverse the school board's practices. Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division said, "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. 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."
Our country has a great set of laws aimed at creating a fair and just society, but laws alone do not justice make. Laws need to be enforced, and policies that overstep the mark need to be checked. Over the past decade, many have criticized the Department of Justice for its inaction and failure to fulfill its mission to “enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law” and to “ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.” In this instance, though, the Department of Justice did its job, very well at that.
(Photo by Guerilla Futures | Jason Tester.)