Public-school integration has been the law of the land ever since 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled “separate but equal” schooling unconstitutional.
But now a class-action lawsuit in Florida charges that the Pinellas County School Board’s policy of equal access to education has unconstitutionally failed to properly educate the district’s 20,000 African American students.
The suit, headed for trial this July, was filed seven years ago by a father on behalf of his son, then a student at Sawgrass Elementary School in St. Petersburg. The boy had academic problems that were “typical of those difficulties commonly faced by students of African descent,” the lawsuit said. Because the school system hadn’t given him and other African American students academic help uniquely tailored to their race, the suit concludes, schools were breaking the law.
African American students in the county lag far behind whites on standardized-test scores and are more than twice as likely to be suspended, but district officials insist it would be racist to treat all black students differently than their white peers.
“Our programs are designed to address a student’s academic needs, not their skin color,” said school board member Nancy Bostock. Her own son, an African American student in a county school, is officially a plaintiff under the terms of the suit.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.