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Lowndes Schools Unitary

U.S. District Judge Michael Mills

Mills Nearly Denied Unitary Status on Basis of Caledonia Mascot

After 40 years of struggle, the Lowndes County School District has finally achieved unitary status.

In an October 24 ruling, Federal Judge Michael Mills declared that the LCSD has “eliminated all vestiges of de jure discrimination to the extent practicable, has complied with the Court’s desegregation plan and orders for a reasonable period of time, and has demonstrated its good faith commitment to constitutional rights….”

The ruling was not entirely rosy: Mills also expressed concern at both Caledonia High School’s continued use of a Confederate mascot and the Lowndes County School Board’s choice of meeting time, but ultimately felt neither was sufficient grounds for denial.

The 1970 Consent
Decree, Subsequent
Orders, and Further Lawsuits

The original desegregation action originated over 40 years ago, with the Department of Justice alleging that many school districts in Mississippi maintained a racially dual system. In a September 5, 1970, order, the court permanently enjoined the district from discriminating on the basis of color, and established provisions governing student assignment, faculty and staff, transportation, school construction and site selection, and extracurricular activities, and mandating the creation of a bi-racial committee.

Since that original 1970 order, the court has entered into a succession of other consent decrees with the district. On February 15, 1989, a decree provided for the construction of a new West Lowndes Elementary School and educational enhancements to programs offered at West Lowndes schools. On June 23, 2001, the court ordered the district to construct a new football facility with practice field and a new baseball facility at West Lowndes High School, as well as replacement of the above-ground sewerage lagoon at West Lowndes Middle School with an underground system.

In 2002 and 2003 private plaintiffs brought two lawsuits against the district: Gray v Lowndes County School District and Shinn v Lowndes County School District. The district, the court and the private plaintiffs agreed to a January 3, 2006, consent order in which the court found that the district was partially unitary.

The US Supreme Court has found six areas of school operation that much be considered when determining if discrimination has been eliminated: student assignment, faculty, staff, transportation, facilities and extracurricular activities. In that 2006 decree, the court found the district was lacking only in facilities and extracurricular activities.
On August 21, 2008, the district moved for unitary status, but the Department of Justice opposed, citing four factors: the WLHS baseball field was not comparable to fields at the other two high schools due to drainage issues; the WLHS entryway did not function properly; there was a lack of advanced instruction policies at WLMS and WLHS; and community complaints about racial harassment and discrimination at the district’s two majority white schools. A February 3, 2009, consent order mandated the district address these issues.

Unitary Status Achieved


On May 15 the LCSD again filed a motion for unitary status. While the Department of Justice did not object, the private plaintiffs did. A Fairness Hearing was set for July 31, and former Superintendent Mike Halford and Assistant Superintendent Peggy Rogers both testified on the district’s behalf. According to Mills’s ruling, “…while twenty-five individuals wrote letters opposing the District’s motion for various reasons or only stating a general objection, no private citizens actually appeared to voice their concerns at the hearing.”

In Mills’s decision he writes that the WLHS baseball field “…is comparable to or in better condition than the fields at Caledonia High School and New Hope High School.” The entryway at WLHS was fixed and no longer leaks, he said, and concerns about parking spaces the private plaintiffs raised at the hearing were unfounded. “Subsequent to the hearing, in order to address this concern, the District provided to counsel for the Private Plaintiffs an affidavit of Greg Wheat, Maintenance Supervisor for the District, that WLHS has a total of 218 marked parking spaces and 7 handicapped spaces at the facility, more than was required by the 2006 Consent Order.”

Mills found that all students, regardless of race, participate in extracurricular activities.

“Halford testified that at Caledonia High School, where the majority of the students are white, the student body elected two black students Mr. and Miss Caledonia High School in 2010. He also testified that the Caledonia student body elected both a black homecoming queen and a black prom king,” Mills wrote.

Mills also stated that Advanced Placement courses are available at WLHS, and appropriate professional development was provided.

“…the number of students at West Lowndes who were involved in AP courses increased from 5 students to 82 students over a four year period during the program’s implementation,” Mills wrote. “For their part, the Private Plaintiffs note that Assistant Superintendent Peggy Rogers testified that the number of students at West Lowndes passing their AP examination has been “very low,” and they accordingly contend that the District has failed to establish that it has fully implemented effective AP classes at West Lowndes High School.”

Board Meetings
and “Confederates”


In his decision, Mills writes that private plaintiffs questioned Halford during the fairness hearing about the time the LCSD board meets.
“Pursuant to Board policy, the regular time for meetings is 11 a.m. on the second Friday of each month, with any special called meetings held at 5 p.m. or 5:30. Board member [Jacqueline Gray] complained about the meeting time…The court concludes that, while it is certainly arguable that the District should choose a more convenient time to hold its school board meeting, this issue does not constitute a basis for denying unitary status in this case,” Mills wrote.

Mills had harsh words for Caledonia High School’s choice of mascot and habit of playing “Dixie” at football games.

From the ruling: “Of all the issues raised in the motion for declaration of unitary status, the one which concerns the court the most is the continued use of the ‘Confederates’ nickname at Caledonia High School. Simply stated, the court can discern no good reason why a Mississippi public school would wish to associate itself with any divisive nickname or symbol. At the hearing, Halford recalled that ‘Confederates’ had been the school’s nickname since at least 1992, and he conceded that the Caledonia student band plays a version of the song ‘Dixie’ when its team scores a touchdown at football games. Halford appeared to recognize that such a nickname can hinder the school’s mission of educating students of all races. At the hearing, Halford sought to emphasize the limited nature of the school’s association with the name, testifying that the Caledonia team uniforms now use the words ‘Caledonia,’ ‘CMS,’ or ‘CHS,’ instead of ‘Confederates’ except for the limited use of the word ‘Fed’ on baseball uniforms.

“This court seriously considered denying a declaration of unitary status based upon this issue, before ultimately deciding not to do so. After viewing the evidence at the hearing, it is the court’s impression that inertia and an unwillingness to address a controversial issue have more to do with the continued use of the ‘Confederates’ nickname at CHS than any official resistance to a unitary system. It is apparent that there are strong feelings on both sides of this issue, and, in such a situation, simple inaction is often the political path of least resistance. It was the court’s impression that Halford’s ‘heart was in the right place’ on this issue. In his testimony, Halford emphasized how the school did not replace a painting of a Confederate soldier on the wall in Caledonia High School’s gymnasium after it was destroyed by a tornado, but it strikes this court that men and women of good conscience should be able to summon the resolve to do the right thing without relying upon acts of God or the federal court to do so.

“This court would have been more inclined to deny unitary status if the Private Plaintiffs had made a stronger showing at the hearing, but, to reiterate, no resident actually showed up to testify on this (or any other) issue.”

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15 comments

  1. JohnnyPhillipMorris

    So how did Judge Mike Mills go from Mississippi Supreme Court justice to be awarded appointment to a “federal” judgeship: The way they all do…selling out to the highest bidder. MSSC Judge Mills, along with his willing accomplices and executioners at the MSSC, sanctioned the Ed Peters/Bobby DeLaughter malicious prosecution and Judge Hilbrun‘s judicial misconduct at that Kangaroo Court conviction of Byron DeLa Beckwith in that triple jeopardy trial over the assassination of Medgar Evers thirty-one years after the crime.
    The prosecutor in Judge Hilbrun’s Kangaroo Court, Hinds County DA Ed Peters and his assistant DA Bobby DeLaughter, tried the same tactic but got checkmated when it was revealed that Ed Peters and DeLaughter had accepted a bribe to throw a case…in the end sending Trent Lott‘s brother-in-law Dickie Scruggs and Judge De Laughter to prison. Lott and Peters escaped justice because Lott retired from the Senate and Ed Peters knows too much dirt on the nefarious conduct and illegal activities of the FBI in Mississippi during COINTELPRO era.
    The lone dissenter in that trial was Justice Dan Lee of Petal who had this to say following Beckwith’s appeal:“…Beckwith’s conviction resulted in a total eradication of the guarantee of a speedy trial from the constitutional lexicon.” That probably explains the SCOTUS’ refusal to hear Beckwith’s appeal:Just didn’t want to get involved.
    When Judge Mills was asked about the lost evidence, dead witnesses(whose testimony from previous trials was read into the triple jeopardy record), a “peer” jury pool consisting of eight blacks and four whites and the exclusion of Beckwith’s exculpatory testimony from the previous two trials, he commented:“…[the jury decision] resulted from voices, both present[hearsay testimomy] and past[testimony read into the record from dead witnesses], who showed courage and will from 1964 to 1994, to merely state the truth in open court.”
    Btw, Judge Lenore Prather was part of that decision to reject Beckwith’s appeal, although she did share somewhat in part in Judge Dan Lee’s dissent.

    Stand up an be counted Judge Kitchens! And are you related to the current MCOA Judge Kitchens who was also on Byron DeLa Beckwith’s defense team in that triple jeopardy trial in Judge Hilbrun’s Kangaroo Court?

    http://www.coxwelllaw.com/files/DeLaBeckwith-V-State-1997.pdf

  2. JohnnyPhillipMorris

    Of course, the correct spelling is “Hilburn,” not Hilbrun.
    And, oddly enough, Judge-for-hire Breland Hilburn is being called out of retirement to adjudicate State’s case against Greenwood oncologist Dr. Arnold Smith in a murder-for-hire plot to kill Greenwood attorney Lee Abraham.

    Turns out that the alleged to-be-killer, Keaira Byrd, was killed(executed) by General Jim Hood’s agents as they lay in ambush when Byrd entered Lee Abraham’s office.

    The autoposy indicated that Byrd died from a .40 cal. bullet that entered the TOP of his head and exited his jaw. There were other bullet wounds about the legs and torso.

    Now the State has charged Dr. Smith with capital murder in the death of Byrd by Hood’s agents. And Judge Breland Hilburn has denied Dr. Smith bond, in spite of the fact that Dr. Smith has no criminal record and his cancer treatment services to his patients ceased upon his imprisonment. Admittedly, Dr. Smith’s conspiracy eccentricity can only be described as wierd; but conspiracy to engage in contract murder of an attorney that represented his wife in divorce proceedings! Dr Smith’s wierdness can be viewed on YouTube.

    Judge Hilburn is on record as opposing filming courtroom deliberations–as the well-informed saw why in his mis-conduct during the Beckwith trial– but this upcoming trial has all the makings of a TruTV special…right up there with the O.J. Simpson two trials.

    http://djournal.com/bookmark/20431018

  3. JohnnyPhillipMorris

    I just cannot get over that hoddy toddy, frat rat smugness written all Judge Mills’ face.

    Reading over the Beckwith appeals process, I see that neither reasonable doubt nor speedy trial guarantees exists in Judge Mills’ judicial lexicon. A statement is made that a lone Beckwith fingerprint was found on the Golden Eagle telescope that was mounted to the “dropped” military surplus rifle found in a wooded area near the Evers home. The FBI never testified that the bullets taken from Evers’ body during autopsy were fired from the “dropped” rifle….only that the bullet fragments “appeared” to be of the caliber that would have been chambered by the “found dropped” rifle.” Inconclusive.

    The FBI concluded that a “partial” fingerprint was found and the fingerprint evidence was inconclusive as to fingering Beckwith as being the Evers’ killer. A partial print is equivalent to a partial DNA.

    It is true that Beckwith could neither confirm nor deny that the weapon found near Evers’ home and shown to him on the stand at trial was the same weapon that was purchased from Thorn McIntyre(his accuser), and that he had reported stolen from his vehicle weeks before the assassination of Evers. Beckwith did testify that he had only purchased the metal(barrel and trigger/chamber assembly) from McIntyre and that the weapon being shown him was equipped with a sling which was not fitted to the rifle that was stolen from him.

    And that Plymouth Valiant(Beckwith owned a Valiant) parked near the Evers home at the time of the assassination? After Beckwith’s first trial, where the vehicle evidence was introduced to place Beckwith at the scene, a Memphis truck driver called the DA’s office and reported that he lived near the Evers home at a boarding house during the time of the assassination, and that he owned the Valiant identified as Beckwith’s.

    All three Beckwith trials were based upon “he said, she said” hearsay testimony. Sadly, that’s enough for the dumbed-down jurors of Mississippi to send one to the death chamber or to be sentenced to life in prison without parole. Ask Julian Mingo or Mary Sue Shields, if you don’t think that is the TRUTH. Judges Kitchens and “Chet” Dillard know the TRUTH, too!

    • Erma Jean Davis

      JohnnyPhillipMorris sir,
      Are you someone that is on the edge of genius and has actually stepped over the line to the idiot side? I consider myself a normal intelligent person but sir you ramble on and on using words/terms that is beyond normal persons intelligence level. I personally can’t keep up with a thing you are saying. Are you the asigned watchdog for everything that happens in the state?

  4. JohnnyPhillipMorris

    You know my method, Watson. It is founded upon the observation of trifles.”~Sherlock Holmes

  5. JohnnyPhillipMorris

    Greenwood Oncologist Dr. Arnold Smith, denied bail and being held in solitary confinement for over six-months, has filed suit in Federal Court against AG Jim Hood and his assassins, on the grounds that the judiciary had no right to act as law enforcement officials in the summary execution of Keaira Beard by Hood’s kill team inside Lawyer Abraham’s office. Byrd was shot several times, with the fatal shot entering the top of his head and exiting his lower jaw. Derrick Lacy,the other alleged assassin hired by Smith, was critically wounded by General Hood’s kill team.
    Strange that this case is not making national headlines. Mississippi’s “kept” press is conspicuously silent, too.

    http://www.clarionledger.com/viewart/20121207/NEWS/312070022/Greenwood-Dr-Arnold-Smith-Action-by-AG-Jim-Hood-unlawful

  6. JohnnyPhillipMorris

    Interesting commentary over at the Jackson Jambalaya blog on the merits and de-merits of State’s case against Dr. Arnold Smith and General Hood’s actions as prosecutor, judge and executioner to which one poster compared Hood as a cross between a Sheriff and DA on steriods.

    John T. Kitchens, son of Mississippi State Court of Appeals Judge Jim Kitchens, says that the State’s 1890 Constitution allows the AG to do anything he damn well pleases…and lauds him for his efforts.

    This sort of hard-nose, hanging judge judicial temperament must run in the Kitchens family DNA?

    http://www.kingfish1935.blogspot.com/2012/12/dr-smith-sues-jim-hood-da-in-federal.html

  7. JohnnyPhillipMorris

    Breaking News In the Extra-Judicial Lynching of Keiara Byrd by agents of Attorney General Jim Hood:

    Imprisoned oncologist Dr. Smith’s hired investigators have revealed that none of the spent bullet casings found at the ambush scene can be traced to the so-called “assault rifle” that Byrd allegedly carried into Abraham’s office. An autopsy revealed that the fatal bullet entered the top of his skull and exited his lower jaw.

    And the “trusted” FBI in on the case. The FBI CAN be bought, too.

    http://www.kingfish1935.blogspot.com/2012/12/dr-smith-asks-federal-court-to-stop.html

  8. JohnnyPhillipMorris

    The plot thickens.

    Dr. Arnold Smith‘s defense attorney, William C. Bell, says that the transcript of an interview conducted with the survivor of AG Jim Hood’s ambush trap shortly after Byrd’s “execution, shows that there was no plot by Dr. Smith to order a hit on Abraham. Apparently, Bell is in possession of the taped interview with the ambush survivor. Jim Hood’s brother Tom is head of the Mississippi state Ethics Commission. Go figure.

    Only in Mississippi.

    Conspiciously silent on these new revelations are the Judean-legal beagles over at Tom Freeland’s nmisscommentor blog. Ben Toledano is part of that “rat pack,” along with that “mysterious lawyer from Jackson” posting under the moniker, “Anderson.”

    William Bell was a former attorney for Stuart’s C. Irby’s ex-wife, Karen Irby;he withdrew as her attorney for undisclosed reasons.

    http://www.gwcommonwealth.com/

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