Joseph C. Phillips

The Walthall School District is not preventing any student – black or white – from attending either school. The district is not segregating the students; rather they are allowing parents to choose where they would like to educate their children and the people are making decisions that they deem to be in their best interests. To the extent that there is segregation it is a result of choices made freely. No doubt this is why the Supreme Court held in Green v County School Board that freedom of choice is not an effective method to desegregate schools. People tend not to willingly follow a bureaucrats carefully crafted race ratios. Here in southern California I have been afforded the right to send my children to any number of schools within Los Angeles, no matter that they fall out of my residential district. I am concerned when other parents are denied that same right regardless of whether or not I agree with their rationale. “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls…”

If all children in the district are free to attend whatever school they want, providing there is room, what is the states compelling interest in usurping the freedom of parents to choose where to educate their children? The reason is the stigma attached to black schools. Salem is not really the problem. There are schools all over the country that can’t claim as diverse a student body as Salem. The real concern is the increasing number of black students at Tylertown and the subsequent death of the school once it becomes known as a black school.

Black schools are generally viewed as bastions of dysfunction, violence, and academic mediocrity. In addition, much of the research being produced by social scientists regarding the racial achievement gap purports to show that academic deficiency among black students is exacerbated by racial segregation. Columbia University researchers Douglas Ready and Megan Silander have determined that attendance at a minority segregated school contributes to the racial achievement gap for elementary school students. The study concludes that these gaps “may result in the loss of more than a year’s worth of cognitive development for black students attending a high minority school.”

I remain unconvinced that sitting next to white children is necessary in order for black students to be academically competitive. However, if in fact the research is true, why would any parent want to send his/her child to a black school? The answer is that a whole lot of American parents do not.

Americans living in glass houses throw stones at Mississippi parents for transferring their children to a “white school.” Yet the decisions of these southern parents put them in the good company of parents –- both black and white -- from San Francisco to Stamford. Cynics among us would point out that the current occupant of the White House is one of those parents. While residents of Chicago, the Obama’s enrolled their children in a school with only a 12% black enrollment and a 70% white enrollment. The Obama’s found a black church; no doubt if they had wanted to they could have found an all black school for their children to attend.

Finally, (file this under the heading of “misplaced priorities”), according to “the Children First Annual Report” of the five schools in the district one of them is failing and four are in danger of failing. I would submit that race is the least of the problems in Walthall County.

Joseph C. Phillips

Joseph C. Phillips is the author of “He Talk Like A White Boy” available wherever books are sold.