Class Officers Segregated By Race
Mississippi school divides posts into black, white seats
NOTE: SEE UPDATES BELOW
AUGUST 26--Children running for class officer posts at a Mississippi public school are only allowed to compete for certain positions based on their race, according to a memo handed out last week to students.
The Nettleton Middle School elections are divided between offices pegged for black and white students, according to the memo, which was provided to TSG by a parent. The document was handed out to every student in the school’s sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, and it details the race requirements for each of four class officer spots (president, vice president, secretary-treasurer, and reporter).
Of the 12 offices for which students compete, eight are earmarked for white students (including the three class president spots), while four are termed “black” seats. Middle school administrators have not returned TSG phone calls, so it is unclear how this policy was established, or whether the number of offices apportioned for each race changes annually. Additionally, it is unknown how children who are not black or white would run for student government offices.
Students seeking class office were directed to return their election applications, complete with the petition signatures of 10 classmates, to science teacher Jenny Payne by August 24. The Nettleton middle school has about 400 students, and about 72 percent are white, according to a source familiar with the school board's operation. The majority of the remaining students are black.
The city of Nettleton has a population of 2013 and is located 15 miles south of Tupelo, the birthplace of Elvis Presley. The middle school’s policy was first reported this week by Suzy Richardson, who operates Mixed and Happy, a blog about mixed-race families. (1 page)
[UPDATE: The Nettleton school superintendent, Russell Taylor, tonight posted a statement on the district’s web site announcing a review of the “processes, historical applications, compliance issues, as well as current implications and ramifications” of the student election system.]
[UPDATE II: The Nettleton school board today (August 27) voted unanimously to overhaul election rules so that “beginning immediately, student elections at Nettleton School District will no longer have a classification of ethnicity.” In a statement, superintendent Russell Taylor acknowledged that the school system is “growing in ethnic diversity and that the classifications of Caucasian and African-American no longer reflect our entire student body.” Future elections, he added, “will be monitored to help ensure that this change in process and procedure does not adversely affect minority representation in student elections.”]