School’s Race Rule Prompts Mom to Pull Kids Out

Holbrook Mohr, Google News, August 28, 2010

A policy intended to achieve racial equality at a north Mississippi school has long meant that only white kids can run for some class offices one year, black kids the next. But Brandy Springer, a mother of four mixed race children, was stunned when she moved to the area from Florida and learned her 12-year-old daughter couldn’t run for class reporter because she wasn’t the right race.

The rules sparked an outcry on blogs and other websites after Springer contacted an advocacy group for mixed-race families. The NAACP called for a Justice Department investigation–not surprising in a state with a history of racial tension dating to the Jim Crow era.

By Friday afternoon, the Nettleton School District announced on its website that it would no longer use race in school elections.

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Springer, who moved to Lee County from Florida in April, said her daughter was told the office of sixth-grade class reporter at Nettleton Middle School was available only to black students this year.

Her anger grew when she saw school election guidelines that allowed only whites to run for class president this year. In alternating years, the positions would be reversed so blacks could run for president and whites could hold other positions, district officials said.

Even if the rule is an attempt to ensure black and white participation, Springer said diversity is no longer a black and white issue, with a growing number of mixed-race children, Hispanics and other ethnicities attending school together.

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Springer is white. Her two older children, including the sixth grader, are half Native American. Her two younger children have a black father.

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The changes in school elections may have come too late for Springer. Springer said she moved to another school district last week and pulled her kids from Nettleton Middle School.

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Nettleton is a town of about 2,000 people with a population that is about 66 percent white and 32 percent black.

Springer’s plight demonstrates the complexities faced not only by interracial families, but by school officials trying to achieve racial equality in a state known for tensions between blacks and whites. The school district also manipulated prom and homecoming elections so that the outcome is an equal division of blacks and whites.

Springer and others worried that could leave out Hispanics, Asians or any other student from another race or ethnicity, Springer said.

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