UPDATE: School ends race-segregated student elections


The school district board in Nettleton, Mississippi, has ended its policy of racially segregating student elections, news sources report.

School officials said the policy, which was established 30 years ago, was designed to achieve racial equality. Under the scheme, only white students were allowed to run for class president, while only black students qualified to run for vice president.

NBC reports:

Superintendent Russell Taylor posted a statement on the school's website, saying the policy had been in place for 30 years, dating back to a time when school districts across Mississippi came under close scrutiny from the U.S. Justice Department over desegregation.

"It is the belief of the current administration that these procedures were implemented to help ensure minority representation and involvement in the student body," the statement said. "It is our hope and desire that these practices and procedures are no longer needed."

"Therefore, beginning immediately, student elections at Nettleton School District will no longer have a classification of ethnicity," it added. "It is our intent that each student has equal opportunity to seek election for any student office."

ORIGINAL STORY FOLLOWS BELOW

Administrators at Nettleton Middle School in Nettleton, Miss., say they are "reviewing" their processes for student elections after a shocked parent went online to publicize the school's policy of racially segregating student council positions.

According to a school memo, obtained and uploaded to the Web by parent Brandy Springer, eighth-grade candidates for class president must be white; vice-presidential candidates must be black.

The same applies for seventh-grade students, but in the sixth grade, both the president and vice-president have to be white, and the only position open to black students is that of class reporter.

"Additionally, it is unknown how children who are not black or white would run for student government offices," notes the Smoking Gun.

Springer first went public with her revelations on a Facebook page devoted to supporting mixed-race marriages. Of Springer's children, two are mixed black and white, and two are mixed Native American and white, leaving Springer wondering where her children fit in in the school's scheme of things.

“My daughter came home from school telling me that she wanted to try out for the school reporter, but it is only open to black students,” Springer wrote to blogger Suzy Richardson. “They told her “she should run for class president, that was open to only white students.”

“I have always taught my children not to see race,” Springer told Richardson. “This is so disgusting to me.”

According to the school's student handbook, a page of which can be viewed here (PDF, via MSNBC), the school homecoming queen race is also racially segregated, with each homeroom required to nominate one black and one white student to the title.

Springer has since moved her children to another school district. She said she talked about the issue earlier this week with the school district superintendent, who "agreed the policy was outdated and that he was willing to review the policy," according to MSNBC.

For its part, the school district suggested it was reacting to the brewing controversy.

"Student elections have not yet been held at Nettleton Middle School for the 2010-2011 school term," Superintendent Russell Taylor said in a statement. "The processes and procedures for student elections are under review. We are reviewing the origin of these processes, historical applications, compliance issues, as well as current implications and ramifications. A statement will be released when review of these processes is complete."

"Even if they changed this policy, there's the fact that officials at this school have this attitude that they have let it go all this time, which means that apparently they have thought it was OK," Springer told MSNBC. "I can't let my children be in a school district like that."

Springer said "the talk around the town" is that "this is the way it is ... and nobody knows any better, nobody wants any better and that's why nobody's challenged it."

According to the US Census Bureau, Nettleton, with a population just under 2,000, is 66.6 percent white, 32.5 percent black, and 0.3 percent of residents identify with "two or more races."

Nettleton Middle School has about 400 students, of whom 72 percent are white, reports the Smoking Gun.