Case: US v. Columbus Municipal Separate School District

1:70-cv-00055 | U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi

Filed Date: July 13, 1970

Closed Date: 2012

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

In 1955, the Supreme Court ordered school districts to desegregate “with all deliberate speed.” 349 U.S. 294. But the city of Columbus, MS did not allow black students to attend schools previously reserved for whites until 1965, a decade later. Even by 1970, no white students attended a historically black school, and less than 5% of black students attended historically white schools. The United States brought this action on July 13, 1970 in the United States District Court for the Northern Dist…

In 1955, the Supreme Court ordered school districts to desegregate “with all deliberate speed.” 349 U.S. 294. But the city of Columbus, MS did not allow black students to attend schools previously reserved for whites until 1965, a decade later. Even by 1970, no white students attended a historically black school, and less than 5% of black students attended historically white schools.

The United States brought this action on July 13, 1970 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi. It sued both of the public school systems in Lowndes County: the Columbus Municipal Separate School District and the Lowndes County School District. The Department of Justice brought the lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 2000c-6 and sought immediate desegregation of both districts.

District Judge Orma R. Smith entered a consent decree on August 10, followed by a permanent injunction on September 5. The injunction ordered the districts to operate unitary, non-racial school systems that did not discriminate on the basis of race. It also established a biracial advisory committee and governed how the districts assigned students to schools, hired faculty and staff, transported students, built new facilities, and decided which extracurricular activities to offer.

The Columbus Municipal Separate School District’s original remedial measures focused on its middle and high schools. In July 1975, the United States sought additional relief to desegregate the District’s elementary schools. Originally, the District claimed that its existing policies were constitutional despite the fact that half its elementary schools were either over 90% black or 90% white. It later proposed minor attendance zone changes based on a neighborhood schools concept.

In contrast, the United States proposed an ambitious pairing system. When two schools were paired, their attendance zones would be merged. Then, all students would attend one school for certain grades (e.g., 1st to 3rd grade) and the other school for the others (e.g., 4th to 6th grade). By pairing historically black schools with historically white schools, the United States’ plan promised quick desegregation.

The district court adopted the United States’ pairing plan. The District appealed, arguing that its more limited plan should have been adopted instead. In an August 9, 1977 opinion, Fifth Circuit Judge Irving L. Goldberg upheld the district court’s determination. Judge Goldberg observed that the District’s plan would leave several schools entirely segregated and that the pairing plan would produce “much greater desegregation.” Therefore, Judge Goldberg held that the pairing plan was appropriate despite a small increase in the District’s transportation costs. 558 F.2d 228.

Over the next decades, the districts filed reports with the court. The court also implemented adjustments to the student assignment plan, authorized the construction and sale of schools, and supervised the appointment of new members to the biracial advisory committee.

In 2007, the Columbus Municipal Separate School District and the United States filed a joint motion for a declaration of unitary status. The district court granted the motion and dismissed the case as to Columbus on August 9.

In contrast, Lowndes County parents’ groups concluded that the Lowndes County School District was not adhering to its obligations under the consent decree. They filed cases in 2002 and 2003 to enforce the districts’ desegregation obligations. The Court merged these two lawsuits with this case in 2004.

The parents’ groups, Lowndes County, and the United States agreed to a new consent decree in 2006, which declared the District unitary with respect to student assignment, faculty and staff assignment, and transportation only. It also provided a pathway towards a declaration of full unitary status.

On August 21, 2008, the District moved for unitary status. The United States opposed the motion because of inadequate facilities and a lack of advanced courses in one of the District’s high schools together with complaints of harassment of and discrimination against black students in majority white schools. The parties then agreed to a modified consent order under which the District would remedy these problems.

The District again moved for unitary status on May 15, 2012. This time, the United States did not oppose the motion, but the parents’ groups did. At a fairness hearing, few residents opposed the plan. The court found that the District had made the required facilities improvements and implemented an AP program. It also found that the District had formulated and implemented an anti-discrimination policy. District Judge Michael P. Mills wrote that the court had “seriously considered” denying unitary status because Caledonia High School continued to use “Confederates” as its nickname and play “Dixie” at sporting events. But the court ultimately concluded that the lack of complaints from the community suggested that these “troubling” activities were “not vestiges of segregation” of sufficient magnitude to justify a denial of unitary status. The Lowndes County School District was declared unitary on October 24, 2012. 900 F. Supp. 2d 703.

The case is now closed.

349 U.S. 294 (1955).

558 F.2d 228 (5th Cir. 1977).

900 F. Supp. 2d 703 (N.D. Miss. 2012).

Summary Authors

Timothy Leake (4/4/2019)

Related Cases

Baker v. Columbus Municipal Separate School District, Northern District of Mississippi (1970)

People


Judge(s)

Alexander [Susie], S. Allan (Mississippi)

Clark, Charles (Mississippi)

Goldberg, Irving Loeb (Louisiana)

Mills, Michael P. (Mississippi)

Roney, Paul Hitch (Florida)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Barrett, St. John (District of Columbia)

Greene, Harold H. (District of Columbia)

Kennedy, Robert (District of Columbia)

Marer, Alan G. (District of Columbia)

Marshall, Burke (District of Columbia)

Judge(s)

Alexander [Susie], S. Allan (Mississippi)

Clark, Charles (Mississippi)

Goldberg, Irving Loeb (Louisiana)

Mills, Michael P. (Mississippi)

Roney, Paul Hitch (Florida)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Barrett, St. John (District of Columbia)

Greene, Harold H. (District of Columbia)

Kennedy, Robert (District of Columbia)

Marer, Alan G. (District of Columbia)

Marshall, Burke (District of Columbia)

McCree, Wade Hampton Jr. (Michigan)

Pellegrino, Whitney Marin (District of Columbia)

Ray, H. M. (Mississippi)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Adams, Holmes S. (Mississippi)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

1:70-cv-00055

Docket

U.S. v. Columbus Municipal Separate School District

July 29, 2010

July 29, 2010

Docket

1:70-cv-00055

Docket

U.S. v. Columbus Municipal Separate School District

Oct. 24, 2012

Oct. 24, 2012

Docket

1:70-cv-00055

Application for Temporary Restraining Order

USA v. Columbus Municipal Separate School District

Nov. 4, 1957

Nov. 4, 1957

Pleading / Motion / Brief

1:70-cv-00055

Complaint

USA v. Columbus Municipal Separate School District

Nov. 4, 1957

Nov. 4, 1957

Complaint

1:70-cv-00055

Affidavit of Rail I. Grigsby

USA V. Columbus Municipal Separate School District

Nov. 5, 1958

Nov. 5, 1958

Declaration/Affidavit

1:70-cv-00055

Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiff's Application for a Temporary Restraining Order

USA v. Columbus Municipal Separate School District

Aug. 22, 1963

Aug. 22, 1963

Pleading / Motion / Brief

1:70-cv-00055

Notice of Motion and Motion for a Preliminary Injunction

USA v. Columbus Municipal Separate School District

Aug. 30, 1963

Aug. 30, 1963

Pleading / Motion / Brief

1:70-cv-00055

Affidavit

USA v. Columbus Municipal Separate School District

Aug. 30, 1963

Aug. 30, 1963

Declaration/Affidavit

76-03781

Opinion

U.S. v. Columbus Municipal Separate School District

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

558 F.2d 228

Aug. 9, 1977

Aug. 9, 1977

Order/Opinion

77-00626

Memorandum for the United States in Opposition

Columbus Municipal Separate School District v. United States

Supreme Court of the United States

Dec. 12, 1977

Dec. 12, 1977

Pleading / Motion / Brief

Resources

Docket

Last updated June 6, 2022, 3:15 a.m.

ECF Number Description Date Link Date / Link
1

NOTICE OF ENTRY of docket sheet, school desegregation case EC 70−55. (5/27/04 consolidated with 1:02CV256 and 1:03CV623) (mhg, USDC)

July 29, 2010

July 29, 2010

Case Reassigned to S. Allan Alexander. (dlh)

May 11, 2012

May 11, 2012

3

MOTION Declaration of Unitary Status (Placed on this docket per order #130 in case Lead Case 1:02CV256) (dlh) (Entered: 05/23/2012)

May 15, 2012

May 15, 2012

2

ORDER REOPENING CASE. Signed by Michael P. Mills on 5/17/2012. (lpm)

May 17, 2012

May 17, 2012

Remark − For a complete docket report for these cases see Case No. 1:02CV256. Associated Cases: 1:70−cv−00055−MPM−SAA, 1:03−cv−00623−MPM−SAA (dlh)

May 23, 2012

May 23, 2012

4

RESPONSE to Motion re (88 in 1:03−cv−00623−MPM−SAA) MOTION for Declaration of Unitary Status, (114 in 1:02−cv−00256−MPM−SAA) MOTION for Declaration of Unitary Status , 3 in 1:70−cv−00055−MPM−SAA) MOTION Declaration of Unitary Status filed by United States of America. Associated Cases: 1:02−cv−00256−MPM−SAA, 1:70−cv−00055−MPM−SAA, 1:03−cv−00623−MPM−SAA (Pellegrino, Whitney) Modified on 5/24/2012 (dlh).

May 24, 2012

May 24, 2012

6

AGREED ORDER setting fairness hearing. Signed by Michael P. Mills on 6/7/2012. Associated Cases: 1:70−cv−00055−MPM−SAA, 1:02−cv−00256−MPM−SAA, 1:03−cv−00623−MPM−SAA (lpm) (Additional attachment(s) added on 6/12/2012: # 3 Exhibit) (dlh).

June 7, 2012

June 7, 2012

7

NOTICE by Holmes S. Adams on behalf of The Lowndes County School District June 2012 Report to Court Associated Cases: 1:02−cv−00256−MPM−SAA, 1:70−cv−00055−MPM−SAA, 1:03−cv−00623−MPM−SAA (Adams, Holmes)

June 15, 2012

June 15, 2012

8

NOTICE of Hearing: Fairness Hearing set for 7/31/2012 10:00 AM in Oxford Courtroom 1 before Chief Judge Michael P. Mills. Associated Cases: 1:02−cv−00256−MPM−SAA, 1:70−cv−00055−MPM−SAA, 1:03−cv−00623−MPM−SAA (spw)

June 18, 2012

June 18, 2012

9

NOTICE by Holmes S. Adams on behalf of The Lowndes County School District of Proof of Publication − Commercial Dispatch re Notice of Fairness Hearing Associated Cases: 1:02−cv−00256−MPM−SAA, 1:70−cv−00055−MPM−SAA, 1:03−cv−00623−MPM−SAA (Adams, Holmes)

July 17, 2012

July 17, 2012

10

NOTICE by Holmes S. Adams on behalf of The Lowndes County School District of Proof of Publication − Columbus Packet re Notice of Fairness Hearing Associated Cases: 1:02−cv−00256−MPM−SAA, 1:70−cv−00055−MPM−SAA, 1:03−cv−00623−MPM−SAA (Adams, Holmes)

July 17, 2012

July 17, 2012

11

Objections or Comments to (135 in 1:02−cv−00256−MPM−SAA, 6 in 1:70−cv−00055−MPM−SAA, 91 in 1:03−cv−00623−MPM−SAA) Order. (Main Document B. Phillips) (Attachments: # 1 A. Buckhalter, # 2 R. Phillips, # 3 E. Suggs, # 4 A. Gardner, # 5 C. Brewer, # 6 A. Brewer, # 7 S. Crawford, # 8 D. Neal, # 9 D. Crawford, # 10 A. Crawford, # 11 B. Ridgeway, # 12 W. Shinn, # 13 J. Blaylock, # 14 L. Shinn, # 15 B. Lewis, # 16 C. Lewis, # 17 J. Lewis, # 18 V. Lewis, # 19 C. Glenn, # 20 T. Shinn, # 21 M. Shinn, # 22 L. Jennings, # 23 J. Glenn, # 24 L. Shinn, # 25 J. Gray)Associated Cases: 1:02−cv−00256−MPM−SAA, 1:70−cv−00055−MPM−SAA, 1:03−cv−00623−MPM−SAA (jtm)

July 20, 2012

July 20, 2012

12

Minute Entry for proceedings held before Michael P. Mills: Motion Hearing held on 7/31/2012 re (88 in 1:03−cv−00623−MPM−SAA) MOTION for Declaration of Unitary Status, (114 in 1:02−cv−00256−MPM−SAA) MOTION for Declaration of Unitary Status filed by The Lowndes County School District, (3 in 1:70−cv−00055−MPM−SAA) MOTION Declaration of Unitary Status filed by United States of America. (Court Reporter Young.) Associated Cases: 1:02−cv−00256−MPM−SAA, 1:70−cv−00055−MPM−SAA, 1:03−cv−00623−MPM−SAA (spw) (Entered: 08/06/2012)

July 31, 2012

July 31, 2012

14

Exhibit List.(Fairness hearing, 7/31/2012 − exhibits on file in Aberdeen Clerk's office) Associated Cases: 1:02−cv−00256−MPM−SAA, 1:70−cv−00055−MPM−SAA, 1:03−cv−00623−MPM−SAA (spw) (Entered: 09/21/2012)

July 31, 2012

July 31, 2012

13

Transcript of Proceedings held on 7/31/12, before Judge Michael P. Mills. Court Reporter/Transcriber Rita Davis Young, Telephone number 662−416−2038. NOTICE RE REDACTION OF TRANSCRIPTS: The parties have seven (7) days to file with the Court a Notice of Intent to Request Redaction of this transcript. If no such Notice is filed, the transcript will be made remotely electronically available to the public without redaction after 90 calendar days. The Policy is located on our website at www.msnd.uscourts.gov. Transcript may be viewed at the court public terminal or purchased through the Court Reporter/Transcriber before the deadline for Release of Transcript Restriction. After that date it may be obtained through PACER. Redaction Request due 8/31/2012. Redacted Transcript Deadline set for 9/10/2012. Release of Transcript Restriction set for 11/8/2012. Associated Cases: 1:02−cv−00256−MPM−SAA, 1:70−cv−00055−MPM−SAA, 1:03−cv−00623−MPM−SAA (mhg)

Aug. 10, 2012

Aug. 10, 2012

15

ORDER granting (114) Motion for declaration of unitary status in case 1:02−cv−00256−MPM−SAA. Signed by Michael P. Mills on 10−24−2012. Associated Cases: 1:02−cv−00256−MPM−SAA, 1:70−cv−00055−MPM−SAA, 1:03−cv−00623−MPM−SAA (lpm)

Oct. 24, 2012

Oct. 24, 2012

16

JUDGMENT. CASE CLOSED. Signed by Michael P. Mills on 10−24−2012. Associated Cases: 1:02−cv−00256−MPM−SAA, 1:70−cv−00055−MPM−SAA, 1:03−cv−00623−MPM−SAA (lpm)

Oct. 24, 2012

Oct. 24, 2012

Case Details

State / Territory: Mississippi

Case Type(s):

School Desegregation

Key Dates

Filing Date: July 13, 1970

Closing Date: 2012

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division

Plaintiff Type(s):

U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Columbus Municipal Separate School District (Columbus, Lowndes), School District

Lowndes County School District (Columbus, Lowndes), School District

Defendant Type(s):

Elementary/Secondary School

Case Details

Causes of Action:

Title IV, Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000c et seq.

Constitutional Clause(s):

Equal Protection

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Non-settlement Outcome

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Attorneys fees

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Litigation

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Order Duration: 1970 - 2012

Content of Injunction:

Busing

Develop anti-discrimination policy

Discrimination Prohibition

Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention

Reporting

Student assignment

Issues

General:

Education

Racial segregation

School/University Facilities

School/University policies

Discrimination-basis:

Race discrimination

Race:

Black

Type of Facility:

Government-run