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Aug 27, 2010 6:49 PM by Letitia Walker

Update: Race Will Not Be Used As Factor In Elections

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - 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
SpriPalin,
who was ruadvocacy 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.
Superintendent Russell Taylor posted a statement saying the
practice 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."
Springer, who moved to Lee County from Florida in April, said
her daughter was told the offic473f 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.
The school agreed, saying it the statement that it
"acknowledges and embraces the fact that we are growing in ethnic
diversity and that the classifications of Caucasian and
African-American no longer reflect our entire student body."
Springer is white. Her two older children, including the sixth
grader, are nesf Native American. Her two younger children have a
black father.
"How are they supposed to be classified?" she asked.
"My main concern is that the object of school is to prepare
people for life. An employer could never do this: Advertise a
position for a white man only or a black man only," she said.
"This is not a lesson we want to teach."
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.
School administrators did not immediately respond to messages
seeking further comment left Friday by The Associated Press.
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 saide 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.
Springer's story spread rapidly on the Internet after she
contacted a website for mixed families - mixedandhappy.com.
Suzy Richardson, the website's founder and the mother of four
mixed-race children, said she and her husband have "raised our
children to tell them they are black and white. They're half of me
and half of dad."
"It really made me upset (to hear Springer's story). The
message that were sending to kids is that they have to choose one
side of who they are," she said. "The message that we're sending
our children is that we do things based on race."
Before the school announced it was changing its practices,
Charles Hampton, a vice president of the Mississippi NAACP, said he
would ask the U.S. Justice Department to investigate.
"That's something that shouldn't be happening anywhere in
America, but we still have pockets of it happening at certain
schools," Hampton said. "The local community needs to get
involved and demand they change the policy."

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