Editor's note: CNN'S Gary Tuchman reports on a Georgia county that is having its first ever integrated prom.
As Quanesha Wallace remembers, it was around this time last year when the idea first came up at Wilcox County High School. It was nothing big, just chatter about prom, school, what comes next, what they'd change.
If things were different, someone said, we'd all go to the same prom.
For as long as anyone could remember, students in their South Georgia community went to separate proms, and homecoming dances, too. White students from Wilcox County attend one. Black students, another. They’re private events organized by parents and students, not the school district. Schools have long been desegregated, but in Wilcox County, the dances never changed.
Teens going to prom across the country have a lot of choices to make about the quintessential high school experience – a date, outfit, transportation, flowers, photos. But in one rural Georgia town, white students have another decision to make: whether to attend the integrated prom or the white prom.
Having two separate proms for black and white students has been the norm in their community until now. For the first time ever, a group of kids in Wilcox County, Georgia, are making history in their tiny town.
They've organized a dance that invites everyone to attend, regardless of race. The teenagers who go to school together and play sports together can finally hit the dance floor together.
CNN's Drew Griffin reports on the leads Mississippi law enforcement ignored in the 2009 roadside killing of Garrick Burdette. The police recently released information about his death to a local newspaper after Griffin questioned them about the way they handled the case.
Burdette's mother told Anderson Cooper it's hurtful that authorities only contacted her about her son's death after CNN put a spotlight on the story, more than three years later. The investigator apologized to her for letting the case slip through the cracks.
Now police say a suspicious car was at the scene of the incident. The article says a deputy thought about trying to find that car, but didn't. There were other clues about the vehicle that could have helped track down the driver, but there was no investigation.
Relatives of two men killed in the same rural Mississippi county say race shaped how the police investigated. Anderson Cooper talked with Ruby Burdette Ellis and Fred Butts about how the deaths of their loved ones were handled by law enforcement.
Ellis' son, Garrick Burdette, died more than three years ago, but as CNN's Drew Griffin discovered, the police never looked into who was driving the vehicle that most likely ended his life. The sheriff's department has yet to go on the record with a reason why they didn't investigate.
Ellis says it hurts that authorities only began investigating her son's death after a CNN reporter came to her town to question police. She now believes the case will get more attention.
Two hit-and-run deaths in rural Mississippi just a few miles apart highlight a disturbing problem about data collection on possible hate crimes.
Last summer, 61-year-old African-American Sunday school teacher Johnny Lee Butts was hit and killed by an 18-year-old white driver. The teen told Panola County Sheriff deputies he thought he hit a deer but the driver's two passengers said he steered straight for Butts. One passenger said he could see that Butts was black. The killing has sparked outrage in the local African-American community. Civil rights groups have demanded that police prosecute Butts' killing as a hate crime.
Nonetheless, prosecutors chose not to.
There was no evidence, authorities said, to suggest a racial motive. The driver was charged with murder. He has not yet pleaded in the case.
It was a hot Sunday morning last July when, right on schedule at 6:30 a.m., 61-year-old Johnny Lee Butts left his rural Mississippi home on his morning ritual, a 4-mile walk.
His neighbor, Otis Brooks, says Butts, a Sunday school teacher, waved as he passed his front door wearing a blue T-shirt.
Brooks remembers that his neighbor's skin tone was easily visible that morning. "You could tell he was black; you could see his arms." The point would become important later.
At nearly 7 a.m., about an hour after sunrise, three white teenagers were barreling down Panola County Mississippi Highway 310 in a white Monte Carlo. Two of the three teens later admitted they had been heavily drinking vodka and smoking marijuana all night. They were headed right toward Butts.
61-year-old Johnny Lee Butts enjoyed his morning ritual, a four mile walk in Panola County, Mississippi. But this past July, Butts, an African-American, was killed during this walk by a white teenager behind the wheel of a car. Law enforcement insists race was not a factor. But Keeping Them Honest, exclusive reporting by CNN raises question about the role race may have played in the killing.
18-year-old Matthew Whitten Darby was the white teenager behind the wheel of the car that hit Butts. Darby is charged with murder, but not a hate crime. Butts’ family and many African-Americans in the community claim the District Attorney and white law enforcement in the county aren’t doing enough to investigate why Butts was run over.
Gary Tuchman reports on a sixth grade teacher in Minnesota who is accused of putting black and special needs students in the back of his classroom. Timothy Olmsted was placed on leave this past January, and then resigned two months later. But, he's still getting paid.
"He separated me from the white kids and sent me to the other side of the room where all the black kids were," a 12-year-old girl said. Black students told their parents and grandparents that Olmsted repeatedly called them "stupid, sloppy, and disgusting."
Tune in to CNN at 8 and 10 p.m. ET and on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET for AC360's special series.
For the past year, Anderson Cooper and the producers at AC360° worked on a project that explores how children form opinions on race. The purpose of "Kids on Race: The Hidden Picture" was to find out more about when they notice race, what informs their views and how all of that differs for black and white children.
We commissioned an original study and partnered with renowned child psychologist and University of Maryland professor Dr. Melanie Killen. Dr. Killen's role was not just to design and implement the study, but also to help us analyze the findings so we could inform parents and teachers.
Anderson wrote in his blog, "I hope this study helps us all consider how our perceptions of race impact our thoughts and behaviors, and also what messages adults are passing down to children." The data we gathered is attention-grabbing, but what's equally fascinating is hearing the raw, unfiltered thoughts of kids as young as six. Their honest comments along with the results paint a picture of how far we've come in teaching the next generation about equality and acceptance - and how much farther we have to go.
All week we've presented the study to you, and in return you've given us your reactions and shared your personal stories. Thank you for contributing to this ongoing national discussion on Twitter, our Facebook and Google Plus page, our blog, and iReport.
In 360's ground-breaking study on kids and race, teens talked candidly about interracial dating. What they said begged for a response from their parents, so Anderson and Soledad O'Brien sat down with their parents.