Equity & Diversity

Jefferson Co. Schools Sued Over Student-Assignment Plan

By Dakarai I. Aarons — June 17, 2010 2 min read
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The Jefferson County, Ky., school district is once again at the center of a lawsuit over its student-assignment plan.

The 90,000-student district, which includes Louisville, was one of two school districts (the other was Seattle) at the center of a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that held districts could not use race as the sole factor in assigning students. That ruling sent several school districts back to the drawing board, updating desegregation-era policies in an attempt to maintain racial and socioeconomic diversity in schools.

The latest lawsuit, filed Wednesday by Teddy Gordon, the Louisville lawyer who brought the original case decided by the Supreme Court, contends the new plan violates state law, which he says gives parents the right to enroll their children in the public school nearest their home, according to a report in The Courier-Journal newspaper in Lousiville.

Superintendent Sheldon Berman told The Courier-Journal he believes the current student-assignment plan meets the requirements of both state law and the Supreme Court decision.

Jefferson County’s previous student-assignment plan classified all students as either black or nonblack. Black student enrollment was required to be no more than 50 percent and no less than 15 percent at most of the county’s schools, Pat Todd, the executive director for student assignment, told me for a story on student-assignment plans earlier this year.

Under the new plan, the county is divided into two regions. In Area A, the adults are less wealthy and have a lower educational attainment, while parents in the Area B are the opposite. Schools will enroll no more than 50 percent and no less than 15 percent of its students from the Area A.

To give parents as many options as possible, Todd said parents can choose from as many as six elementary schools. The plan began this year with elementary students and will continue to be phased in, reaching full implementation districtwide, including new boundaries, in the 2011-12 school year.

“We believe that when you put a student-assignment plan in place that is coupled with attention to curriculum that is rigorous and to monitoring student progress, that all children actually achieve at higher levels,” she told me.

The district’s plan has faced renewed attack this week, and not just from the lawsuit. The Louisville chapter of the NAACP released a report saying teachers and others were undermining the new plan, making schools less diverse than they otherwise would be.

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.