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An integrated group of Cleveland, Miss., public school students ride the school district bus on their way home following classes on May 13, 2015.
Rogelio V. Solis—AP

Correction appended, May 17

A federal court ordered a Mississippi town to combine its two high schools and middle schools on Friday in order to finally desegregate the school district after a five-decade legal battle.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi ordered that the two high schools in Cleveland, Miss. should be consolidated into one high school immediately, calling the sustained segregation a decision a “burden” that “deprived generations of students of the constitutionally-guaranteed right of an integrated education.” The court rejected two alternate proposals presented by the district, and instead ordered the district to consolidate a mostly-black middle school and high school with the mostly-white ones, effectively ending segregation in this town of 12,000 people more than 50 years after Brown vs Board of Education. The district has about 3,700 students who are 66% black, and 30% white.

“Delaying desegregation obligations is both unacceptable and unconstitutional,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, in a statement announcing the decision. “This victory creates new opportunities for the children of Cleveland to learn, play and thrive together. The court’s ruling will result in the immediate and effective desegregation of the district’s middle school and high school program for the first time in the district’s more than century-long history.”

A lawyer for the district told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger that they are still reviewing the 96-page decision and are deciding whether to appeal.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the name of the newspaper that cited a district lawyer saying officials were reviewing the decision. It is the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

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