Alabama county opens first fully integrated school
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An Alabama county this week is opening its first fully integrated school, which will have a student body that is roughly half white and half black.

The University Charter School in west Alabama's Sumter County will boast the highest level of integration in the county's history, local news outlet AL.com reported.

Sumter County is about 76 percent black and 24 percent white but no public school in the county has come close to such a percentage split as the charter school, the outlet noted, with white students largely going to nearby private schools.

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"The charter school took on a huge task of integrating in this community," kindergarten teacher Brittany Williams told AL.com. "I think our focus is to make sure that our children see this as normal, not something that's out of place. Because it should be normal to our kids and to our parents."

Sumter County has avoided integration despite the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling by establishing all-white private schools, dubbed "segregation academies," the outlet reported.

Brown v. Board mandated that all public schools must be integrated across racial lines, but schools across the country found loopholes to avoid the ruling or just ignored it altogether. Though the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it easier for the federal government to enforce desegregation by withholding funds from counties that refused to comply, Sumter somehow avoided the mandate.

All but 11 of Sumter County's 1,500 students in the last academic year were black, AL.com reported. The county is the poorest in Alabama, with a median household income of $20,428 and more than a third of the county's residents living below the poverty line. Nearly 70 percent of the students at the charter school qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

"This is an historic day and an historic mission," Principal John Cameron said, according to the outlet.

Alabama's educational system is deeply segregated. An Alabama judge made headlines in April 2017 for allowing a majority-white Alabama city to secede from a predominantly black county school system, though the decision was later reversed.

Alabama's integration issue is not an anomaly, however. Reports have emerged for years that schools across the country are becoming increasingly segregated. The Atlantic in March conducted an analysis that found the number of segregated schools, defined as those with less than 40 percent white children, doubled between 1996 and 2016.