"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Federal Court Rules Against Huntsville's Segregated Caste System of Schools

From Alternet, a clip:

. . . . "The record in this case is not as clear as the Board suggests, and the fact that the district integrated the student bodies of many of its schools in the early 1970s does not automatically lead to the conclusion that the district does not currently operate a dual system," she wrote. She pointed out that not only were many schools still segregated, but the opportunity to take advanced classes also appeared linked to race.

She noted testimony from a white mother who withdrew her child from a predominantly black high school because it offered fewer advanced academic courses than other schools.

"While private choices seem to have precipitated the existing racial polarization of the district's schools, it is not clear...that the district has not contributed to the situation," she wrote. "There is a significant disparity between the educational programs in the district's predominately African-American secondary schools and the educational programs in the district's predominately white schools."

That disparity, she said, could even be a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Huntsville schools had taken several steps to improve educational outcomes for black students, including adopting universal school breakfast programs and increasing pre-kindergarten classrooms. But the judge's ruling seemed skeptical of whether the district would continue these efforts once court oversight ended.

"The Board submits that the district's conduct over the past 50 years demonstrates good faith. Recent events, though, have hurt the board's record," she wrote. She catalogued Huntsville's 20-year failure to file required reports, its track record of missing data and incomplete information, and its public criticism of a requirement in the order that the district allow students to transfer into schools where they are a racial minority.

Haikala set two magistrate judges to the task of gathering information and to work with the district and the Justice Department to come up with a plan to address any other issues needed to get the district in compliance with the order, and ultimately, to end it.

Huntsville's children, she wrote, "have no control over where they live now, but giving them a strong education is the surest way to ensure that they will have choices about where they will live in the future and what they will do when they become adults."

You can read Judge Haikala's entire order here. You can search ProPublica's database to see whether your district is, or has ever been, under a school desegregation order and check school segregation in your hometown.

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