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Press Release

Justice Department Secures Agreement in Tennessee School Desegregation Case

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Tennessee

Note: View the agreement here. 

Memphis, TN – The Justice Department announced yesterday that it has secured an agreement to improve and expand educational opportunities for students in the Fayette County School District in Tennessee. The consent order was approved by U.S. District Court Judge S. Thomas Anderson for the Western District of Tennessee as part of a longstanding school desegregation case.

Under the consent decree, the school district will improve its practices for identifying and serving students in its gifted programs and in dual enrollment classes, which give high school students access to college-level coursework; bolster efforts to recruit and retain diverse faculty; and revise student discipline policies to prevent racial discrimination and support a positive climate, including by ending the use of corporal punishment.   

“School desegregation and equal access to a quality education was critically important nearly 70 years ago when the Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board, and it is critically important today,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department remains steadfast in our commitment to making real the promise of Brown and dismantling the legacy of discrimination in our schools. This consent decree is a giant step forward for students deserving of racially just and equitable outcomes in Fayette County Schools. These reforms will expand access to enriched academic opportunities and give students the positive, inclusive learning environment they need to thrive.”

As part of the consent decree, the court declared the district had met its desegregation obligations in several areas of operations, including staff assignment, facilities, transportation and extracurricular activities. The consent decree also provides that the district will, among other requirements:

  • Work with the Justice Department and private plaintiffs represented by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to develop an effective and sustainable student assignment policy to further desegregation in its schools;
  • Adopt a plan to ensure that all students, including Black students, are properly identified for enrollment in its gifted program and that the district delivers gifted services to properly designated students in a nondiscriminatory manner;
  • Review its enrollment in advanced and dual enrollment courses in secondary schools to identify any racial disparities and implement practicable responses designed to reduce barriers that limit the participation of Black students;
  • Work with a consultant to implement changes to its student discipline policies designed to reduce racial disparities in discipline, and instill positive reinforcement techniques;
  • Eliminate the use of corporal punishment, a practice that undermines effective implementation of positive behavioral interventions; and
  • Conduct a comprehensive review of the district’s hiring policies and procedures to identify racial disparities in the recruitment, hiring, promotion and retention of Black faculty and implement appropriate remedial measures.

Next year marks the 70th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education. The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division continues to prioritize enforcement of desegregation orders in school districts formerly segregated by law, to ensure that all children can access the building blocks of educational success. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at, and additional information about the work of the Educational Opportunities Section is available at

Members of the public may report possible civil rights violations at

Updated October 12, 2023