Huntsville City Schools in Alabama and the U.S Department of Justice have reached a tentative agreement to potentially end a long running bitter legal dispute on the desegregation of the city’s schools.
Officials with the city’s school system released a proposed consent order to the public which highlighted previous disagreements between the two parties on school attendance zones, the wide difference in class offerings, school transfers and other problems.
The bodies involved notified U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala of the mediation’s success. The court had intervened since the last summer, ordering the school district and DOJ to undergo a mediation process between the two sides before determining a proper agreement in rezoning the school zone boundary lines. Both sides have repeatedly made efforts to resolve issues and bring an end to the case since then, writes Crystal Bonvillian of AL.com.
Dr. Casey Wardynski, Superintendent of Huntsville City Schools issued a statement regarding the proposed consent:
“Since last summer, we have been negotiating with the Department of Justice to ultimately achieve the goal of unitary status. When we entered into mediation, I stated this opportunity would improve our school system for all of our children. My administration, its counsel and the Department of Justice have created an agreement for consideration by the public and the court. This agreement addresses the factors identified by the Supreme Court to become a unitary system. These factors include student assignment, faculty assignment, extracurricular activities, transportation, facilities, and an additional factor of student discipline. This agreement is supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, my administration and board legal counsel.”
Attorney General Vanita Gupta for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice lauded the proposal as a positive step in the right direction:
“A quality education is the key that opens the door to a better future. This agreement aims to ensure that African American students in Huntsville schools can access that quality education on an equal basis. We look forward to working with the district to implement the measures required by this proposed order, if approved, and eventually bring this case to successful resolution after so many years.”
Along with the order filed with the court, the documents providing the newly proposed student assignment plan was also released to the public.
The proposal states that students at Monte Sano elementary would still be present in the the Huntsville High School feeder system. The students were originally meant to be transferred to Lee High School, a move which incurred outrage from several parents last summer.
The school board is set to give the approval to the proposed consent order during the upcoming federal court hearing in March after dealing with the public hearings.
If the consent receives the green light from the judge, Huntsville City Schools would have a chance of forming a uniform entity and would be free from the federal desegregation order it’s been under for ages.
Any comments directed towards the United States Department of Justice and Huntsville City Schools can be sent through the website and various public forums. Those public forums will take place at Lee High School at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Columbia High School at 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 2nd and at Huntsville High School at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 3rd.
Until then, the Court has prevented the Huntsville Board of Education, District employees, and representatives of the United States from providing any further comments, writes Kaitlin Chappell of 12 WSFA.