Law & Courts

Alabama School Secession Plan Motivated By Race, NAACP Argues

By Corey Mitchell — August 09, 2017 1 min read
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The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund has filed a legal challenge to a federal ruling that would allow a mostly white town in Alabama to secede from a racially mixed county school district and start its own system.

Last spring, a federal judge ruled that the Gardendale school system could take control of two elementary schools within its boundaries from the Jefferson County schools —even though she concluded that race was the main motivation for the split.

The Jefferson County system and lawyers representing the black families who are opposed to the split, argued that the decision could lead to resegregation of a district with a history of intentionally separating white and black students. The district includes parts of suburban Birmingham.

The NAACP filed its appeal in the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, on Aug. 7.

In the appeal, the lawyers wrote that: “Gardendale’s actions have no legitimacy at all under our Constitution, and its secession may not be permitted. In sum, one cannot cure the constitutional infirmity inherent in the creation of a public-school system for the purpose of excluding black children by allowing the formation of a school system created for the purpose of excluding black children.”

Mark Walsh has the details on the Education Week’s School Law blog.

What’s happening in Alabama is part of a larger nationwide trend.

In June, my colleague Denisa Superville wrote that, since 2000, close to 50 communities have broken away from their old school districts to form new ones—often creating school systems that are wealthier and less racially diverse.

Close to 10 others, including Gardendale, are in the process of seceding from their current school districts, according to a report from EdBuild, a New Jersey-based nonprofit that focuses on inequities in school funding.

The effect has been acute in the Jefferson County schools, which have been under a federal desegregation order since 1971. During that time, three other predominately white communities seceded from the larger system.

If the appeal falls short, Gardendale would be the fourth.

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