Wayne Co. schools see end to federal oversight

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WAYNESBORO, Miss. (AP) — Federal government oversight of the Wayne County, Mississippi, school system has ended.

The Department of Justice says in a news release that a federal judge signed an order Tuesday dismissing the longstanding school desegregation case. The school district serves close to 3,500 students and has been operating under a desegregation order since 1970.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division said in a news release that in 2006, the federal court entered an order specifically prohibiting the use of race in classroom assignments at Waynesboro Elementary School, one of the district's four elementary schools.

In 2012, Gupta said after concerns continued about Waynesboro's classroom assignment practices, the court approved a consent order directing the district to randomly assign students to classrooms in the school. The district has successfully used the new classroom assignment procedures for the last four school years.

Gupta said the Justice Department recently determined that the district had complied fully with the terms of the 2012 consent order and was eligible for unitary status and dismissal of the case.

"We commend the Wayne County School District for satisfying its remaining obligations in this case and ensuring equal educational opportunities for all students," said Gupta.

Legal battles over school desegregation have persisted since the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954. In the 1960s, school districts across the South were sued and given desegregation orders, which put them under Justice Department scrutiny.

Last summer, the Justice Department said 44 Mississippi schools districts — the largest number in the Southeast — remained embroiled in lawsuits seeking to end decades of federal oversight.

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