Having been unsuccessful in getting Shelby County Schools to listen to reasoned argument, South Side parents, teachers, and concerned citizens have filed suit against SCS in U. S. District Court to halt the planned closure of South Side Middle School in Memphis.
Plaintiffs in the case allege violations under Tennessee statutes, the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U. S. Constitution, and violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Below are the factual allegations:
III. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS
1. Defendant SCS has voted through its Board and its Superintendent to close South Side Middle School grades six through eight and to move those children who previously attended South Side Middle School to a facility presently known as Riverview Middle School for the upcoming 2015-2016 school year.2. Your Plaintiffs aver that the movement of students from the South Side Community to the Riverview Middle School is detrimental to the welfare and proper education of those students and parents in the South Side community.3. Your Plaintiffs aver and will show to the court that better alternatives exist and the movement as planned by the SCS violates the equal protection rights of the South Side students under the United States Constitution and Article XI, Section 8 of the Tennessee Constitution as well as42 USC Title VI .4.The movement of students as planned by SCS fails to provide substantially equal educational opportunity for the South Side students because SCS students are being removed from their community and placed in the midst of a crime-ridden Injunction Zone from the Riverside Rolling Nineties Crips. (See Exhibit E Attached hereto) The Shelby County District Attorney General, Amy Weirich and the Environmental court have declared this area an injunction zone for gang activity. The area five blocks from Patton street which encompasses the Riverview Middle School has been determined a nuisance by the Shelby County District Attorney , the Memphis Mayor and the Shelby County Environmental court. This is no place to send our children.5.The movement of students as planned by SCS does not provide a rational basis for vastly unequal school quality. By the analysis of SCS in their own assessment documents, for the 20114-2015 academic year (See Exhibit A attached hereto) Riverview Middle has poor academic performance with fewer than 15 percent proficient in Math and Reading Language Arts. South Side performance and proficiency figures are based on a larger sample of students because when you consider the schools grades sixthrough eight. South Side has twice as many students. (See attached Exhibit B) With 166 Students, Riverview Middle is under-enrolled and does not enjoy some full-time course offerings such as computer and foreign language (Spanish). South Side offers both computer and Spanish. Riverview has steadily declining enrollment since its ten-year peak in 2004-2005 at 628 students, Riverview Middle is underutilized at 23%. There is a declining overall birth trend over the last ten years and an enrollment projected to continue to decline over the next five years. . South Side has a School Level Evaluation Composite of 3 although the chart, (see Exhibit C attached hereto) somehow reaches an unexplainable average of 2 although three’s are present across the board. This is the same inexplicable reasoning that is moving South Side to Riverview when it clearly appears the move should be the other way around.
6. The movement of students as planned by SCS creates inferior education and inferior treatment for the South Side students rather than the equal treatment contemplated by the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution and equal protection provisions of the Tennessee constitution. The Riverview Middle Structure is in a dilapidated and hazardous condition. Pursuant to the 2013 physical needs assessment (See Exhibit D attached), Floor urinals are antiquated and do not meet ADA standards. Stairwell treads have lost their integrity. The window system is old and needs replacing. The interior lighting needs replacing. The roof was thirteen years old and in poor condition. The parking lot was in disrepair. The locker rooms were in need of renovation. The ceiling in the kitchen needed repair. The cooling tower, chillers and air handler were needed replacement at a cost of $650,000/ The South Side facility and structure is in excellent condition.7. Moving children , if not carefully done can be detrimental and cause the children to slide backwards. In this instance of the move from South Side to Riverview, it has not been well done.
Below is some background, previously published here, on how the lawsuit emerged. Please give to the Legal Defensed Fund:
Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to get to know and to work with a core group of dedicated teachers and parents in South Memphis who are smart, savvy, committed, unrelenting, and fearless in doing what is necessary to beat back the privatizers and profiteers who now think they call the shots for Memphis schools.
These new friends and colleagues have attended school board meetings, where they heated up the microphones, and they have gone on TV and radio to get the message out on the ASD corporate charter handout organization and its homegrown equivalent, the IZone. They are determined to keep their community schools open.
This group, OurStudents MatterNow, has plans save South Side Middle School from being shut down and turned over the charter industry, which is waiting to swoop in to score another big real estate deal and to devastate another community that loves its school.
They need your help. OurStudents MatterNow has started a legal defense fund to take their case into the courts, and they are planning for public demonstrations and organizing events this Spring.
If you want to put your money at Ground Zero of the effort to save community schools and make them better, please help these dedicated citizens. Their GoFundMe site is here: http://www.gofundme.com/ourstudentsmatter