FIFTH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS ALLOWS MISSISSIPPI SCHOOL RIGHTS CASE TO PROCEED
Skellenger Bender is extremely proud of a recent victory in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the commitment and determination of two of its attorneys: Rita Bender and Bill Bender.
The Fifth Circuit’s decision in Williams, et al. v. Reeves, et al., reverses the District Court’s Order dismissing the case, which challenged the denial of meaningful public education for African American school children in Mississippi. This decision remands the case to District Court for further proceedings.
Skellenger Bender attorneys, Rita Bender and Bill Bender, along with attorneys of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Jackson, Mississippi, and attorneys at O’Melveny & Myers in New York City, represent four mothers in Mississippi who brought the action to address the lack of uniformity in schools in Mississippi. This lack of uniformity has led to the gross underfunding of schools predominantly attended by African American children in the state. The arguments in this case are based on the promises made by the state of Mississippi as a condition of the readmission of its representatives to Congress after the Civil War. The “Readmission Act” required that Mississippi would never deprive any of its citizens of the robust school rights and privileges promised in its post-Civil War constitution. The suit alleges that in 1890, Mississippi amended its constitution with the goal of ensuring the return of white supremacy to power. The “Mississippi Plan” attempted to eliminate the black vote by: (1) tying literacy to the right to vote; and (2) deliberately withholding meaningful public education to black students. The goal was to systematically disenfranchise African American voters over many decades and generations, and was sustained by official state policy.
Rita and Bill are excited to bring this case to trial so that all children in Mississippi have equal access to education and opportunities for success.
To read the opinion or for more information, see http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/19/19-60069-CV0.pdf ; https://www.splcenter.org/news/2020/04/27/splc-lawsuit-challenging-mississippis-failure-provide-uniform-public-school-system-moves, and https://www.jurist.org/news/2020/04/federal-appeals-court-allows-challenge-to-mississippi-education-system/.