Dismissal of court order is a big step

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 7, 2003

Friday was an historic day for Natchez and Adams County as a federal judge dismissed a long-standing desegregation case affecting the public school system.

The judge’s decision is historic not only because of the effect it can have on education and on our community but because of what it says about our community.

Before the judge’s ruling in 1989, one of the plaintiffs had never sat in a classroom with a white student. After the ruling, which merged North and South Natchez high schools, he became friends with white students and spent time with them in class and after school.

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It is one small story in a long saga, but it is illustrative of the strides our community has taken over the past several years.

The court order under which the school district had been operating has been criticized, mainly because it forced a haphazard transition that has left schools overcrowded today.

But what the lawsuit that brought the order sought to correct was a division in the school district that should have been dispelled decades ago.

The specifics of the order might not have been the best way to run a school district, but they did accomplish what was right and necessary: unifying the district.

We still have a long way to go. In many ways, despite the strides that have been made, we still need racial healing in our community. At best, we need open, honest dialogue about race. But the simple fact that our school district &045; while it remains majority African-American &045; is now legally considered integrated is a major step.

The dismissal of the court order will not change the educational picture of our community overnight. District officials must now assess how this affects public schools and how they want to proceed in the future. We hope they will keep their ideas and their discussion in a public forum &045; and be open to the ideas of our community’s residents.

In the meantime, we’re proud of the step this community has taken &045; and anxious to keep moving forward.