Equity & Diversity

Mostly White Alabama Town Drops Bid to Create Its Own School System

By Corey Mitchell — March 01, 2018 2 min read
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The mostly white city of Gardendale, Ala., will end its fight to form its own school district and break off from the heavily black school system of surrounding Jefferson County.

The decision—which comes two weeks after a federal appeals court ruled that Gardendale couldn’t form its own district—draws to a close a years-long legal battle.

That ruling from the 11th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals rescinded a lower court decision that allowed Gardendale to proceed with its plan, even after the judge concluded that race was the main motivator for the split.

Advocates for racial integration in schools argued the previous ruling rolled back decades-long efforts to desegregate schools in the South.

Gardendale city leaders pushed to take control of their schools and tax dollars, arguing that local control, not racial separation was their intent. As part of their push to break off from Jefferson County, the city formed a school board and hired a superintendent in 2014.

The campaign came to a screeching halt this week when Gardendale’s mayor and school board president sent a letter to the Jefferson County Board of Education informing the district that it will not appeal the court of appeals decision.

“It is our desire, over the coming months, to explore collaborative ways of all of us working together so as to support our students, parents, school officials, educators, and staff members as well as to foster the educational opportunities for the children who attend schools in Gardendale,” read part of the letter from the city’s mayor and school board president.

On Thursday, the Jefferson County schools issued a response.

“This decision hopefully will allow our school communities to come back together and collaboratively work towards the continued improvement of educational opportunities for all students in Jefferson County,” the letter read.

“As with all municipalities, the Jefferson County Board of Education stands committed to the continued collaboration which best serves our students, staff, and communities. We look forward to this same relationship with the City of Gardendale as well.”

Here’s a look at the Gardendale letter.

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