Filed Date: July 1, 1983
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This is a school desegregation case arising out of Starkville, Mississippi. Plaintiffs, black students and their families, filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi and alleged that Starkville maintained a dual educational system that was segregated on the basis of race. They sought injunctive relief from the court to eliminate the dual system.
The case was first filed in 1969 as Bell v. Starkville Municipal School District, and given the docket number 69-37a. The claims against the City of Starkville and Oktibbeha County were severed into two discrete cases: Harris v. Oktibbeha County School District and Montgomery v. Starkville Separate School District.
On August 7, 1969, District Judge Orma R. Smith entered an order directing Starkville to prepare a desegregation plan to be filed with the court for the 1970-71 school year. This plan was disapproved by Judge Smith and Starkville was instructed to submit a new plan in January 1970. Permanent injunctive relief was granted to the plaintiffs in February 1970. The court ordered that Starkville officials work to immediately begin operating a unitary school system as required by the Supreme Court in Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education, 396 U.S. 19 (1969) and Carter v. West Feliciana School Board, 396 U.S. 290 (1970). Prior to this date, Starkville had two high schools (one white and one black), two junior high/middle schools (one white and one black), and four elementary schools (two white and two black). The teachers and school administrators were also almost completely segregated. After this order, students and faculty in Starkville were reassigned to achieve desegregation.
According to a 1987 opinion, the plaintiffs asked the court for additional injunctive relief approximately a year after desegregation commenced. The plaintiffs asked that Starkville file semi-annual reports with the court to monitor Starkville's compliance with the 1970 order. This motion was sustained on November 29, 1971.
There was an additional case filed in the Northern District of Mississippi in 1971 related to this matter entitled Armstead v. Starkville Municipal Separate School District, which dealt with Starkville's discrimination against its black teachers. Relief was granted to the teachers and Starkville was ordered to stop its discriminatory practices of denying black teachers reemployment at a higher rate than their white peers. 325 F. Supp. 560 (N.D. Miss. 1971).
Starkville filed a motion to dissolve the injunctions in 1978. This motion was withdrawn by Starkville three years later after the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) withheld complete approval of the system. OCR got involved with the case after the NAACP filed a complaint with them in 1979 and alleged that Starkville's student grouping practices were being used to maintain a dual education system. After the complaint was filed, OCR recommended a number of changes that were implemented by Starkville. As a result, OCR cleared Starkville of all claims brought in the NAACP complaint in 1982.
The plaintiffs filed another request for relief in 1983 and alleged that Starkville had not achieved a unitary school system. (At this point the case was given a new docket number, 1:83-cv-00293-MPM.) District Judge L.T. Senter, Jr. held that the plaintiffs did not establish that Starkville teachers were unequally compensated based on race; plaintiffs did not establish that Starkville has dismissed or demoted teachers based on race; plaintiffs did not establish that Starkville recruited new teachers based on race; Starkville did not maintain a dual system through its practice of achievement grouping even though its use of achievement grouping was deemed to be statistically abnormal; and Starkville's program for creative students was not discriminatory. However, the court held that Starkville did not rebut an inference of discrimination in a program for gifted students. As a result, the court ordered that Starkville create new entrance requirement procedures for this program and the court had to approve the procedures before they were implemented. 665 F. Supp. 487 (N.D. Miss. 1987).
The plaintiffs then appealed the district court's decision to the Fifth Circuit. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision and held that Starkville's achievement grouping system and gifted programs were not discriminatory. 854 F.2d 127 (5th Cir. 1988). Attorneys' fees were awarded to the plaintiffs in the amount of $23,537.50 in 1989. The plaintiffs also received expert witness fees for $8707.17 for a total award of $32,244.67. The parties cross-appealed, but later dismissed their motions.
In 1988, the United States intervened in a case against Oktibbeha County School District. The United States interpleaded Starkville because there were allegations that Starkville was allowing students living in the Oktibbeha County School District to jump district lines and attend school in Starkville. Starkville was dismissed from the case by Judge Senter after discovery turned up no proof that these allegations were true. The United States continued to be involved in the case as of March 2017.
Starkville submitted annual reports to the court throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. On November 14, 2014, Starkville filed a joint motion with the Oktibbeha County School District to consolidate their desegregation cases. The Mississippi State Legislature passed a law mandating that the two school districts be consolidated, so the districts wanted their cases consolidated in order to submit a joint desegregation plan so the districts could continue to be in compliance with their respective desegregation orders. This motion was granted by District Judge Michael P. Mills on January 14, 2015.
On March 17, 2015, the districts filed a motion for the court to approve their desegregation plan for the new, consolidated school district. The parties, working with the U.S. Department of Justice, submitted a joint desegregation order for the consolidated school district. The desegregation order assigned students to schools within the new Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District, set out provisions for faculty and would assignments, described how school construction/site selection will be carried out to prevent a recurrence of a dual school system, contained transportation provisions describing bus transportation within the district, implemented a majority-to-minority transfer policy, described inter-district transfer policies, addressed integration of extracurricular activities, established a biracial advisory committee, pledged to use Mississippi State Department of Education screening guidelines to identify academically gifted students, and agreed to continue filing annual reports with the court. Judge Mills approved this desegregation order on July 13, 2015.
An amended desegregation order was signed by Judge Mills on March 3, 2016. It included many provisions similar to the 2015 order, but expanded some of its provisions and added details about how the parties would resolve disputes amongst themselves before seeking the court's assistance and how the court would continue to monitor the case until the district achieved unitary status.
Since then, yearly reports were submitted on behalf of the Starkville Municipal Separate School District on June 22, 2016, June 30, 2017, and June 29, 2018, in compliance with the 2015 desegregation order. The reports included the following information for all public schools operated by the District:
1. The total number and percentage of students, by race/ethnicity and grade level, assigned to each school.
2. Information on class enrollment for each classroom and its demographics
3. The total number and information of students who have requested intra-district transfers
4. The total number and percentage of teachers and administrators, by race/ethnicity and position, assigned to each school
5. The total number and percentage of non-certified staff, by race/ethnicity and position, assigned to each school.
6. The total number and percentage of employees, by race/ethnicity and position, assigned to the central office.
7. For all hiring: the vacancy filled (i.e., position, school), the date of the hiring decision, and the race of the individual hired.
8. A brief description of any present or proposed plan to site or construct new facilities or expand existing facilities and the projected racial impact of the proposal.
9. Information on whether the transportation system in the Consolidated District was desegregated to the extent that black and white students are transported daily on the same buses.
10. Copies of yearbooks for each school in the District if applicable
11. Whether there was a Biracial Advisory Committee, and information on the Committee
As of 2019, the case is ongoing.
Montgomery v. Starkville Mun. Separate Sch. Dist., 665 F. Supp. 487 (N.D. Miss. 1987).
Montgomery v. Starkville Mun. Separate Sch. Dist., 854 F.2d 127 (5th Cir. 1988).
Amelia Huckins (3/7/2017)
Averyn Lee (6/10/2019)
Colom, Wilbur O. (Mississippi)
Adams, Holmes S. (Mississippi)
Breen-Portnoy, Ceala Eloise (District of Columbia)
Hooks, John Simeon (Mississippi)
Jondahl, Andrew Kuffel (District of Columbia)
McAlpin, Dolton W. (Mississippi)
Mills, Michael P. (Mississippi)
Senter, Lyonel Thomas Jr. (Mississippi)
Van Graafeiland, Ellsworth Alfred (New York)
Last updated Sept. 16, 2023, 3 a.m.
State / Territory: Mississippi
Filing Date: July 1, 1983
Case Ongoing: Yes
Black students and their families residing in Starkville and Oktibbeha County, Mississippi.
Public Interest Lawyer: Yes
Filed Pro Se: No
Class Action Sought: Yes
Class Action Outcome: Granted
Causes of Action:
Prevailing Party: Plaintiff
Nature of Relief:
Source of Relief:
Amount Defendant Pays: $32,244.67
Order Duration: 1970 - None
Content of Injunction:
Type of Facility: