Metro looks to avoid trial in schools segregation suit

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 11:12am

Metro attorneys recently filed a motion to dismiss the long-running schools rezoning suit, hoping to avoid a new trial over allegations that the district intentionally sought to segregate students based on race.

For now, the case — which has dragged on for nearly three years — is set for trial in May before U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Sharp. In a response filed Feb. 22, plaintiffs’ attorneys stand by claims that “significant segregation” of minorities resulted from implementation of a controversial 2009 student assignment plan.

“These are the same arguments they’ve been making for two years,” plaintiffs’ attorney Larry Woods said. “It’s time to get to the merits of this issue of whether the school board racially discriminated. Let’s have a trial and find out.”

In separate motions to dismiss and for summary judgment, filed Jan. 24 and Jan. 26 in federal court, Metro attorneys claim the school district has actually “become more racially and ethnically diverse overall” in the three years after the school board implemented the new student assignment plan. The motions are common for a defense to make before a trial begins.

The rezoning plan — approved by a contentious 5-4 board vote in 2008 before going into effect the next year — triggered immediate litigation in which plaintiffs argued Metro school officials “knowingly and intentionally used racial identification” to rezone African-American students away from affluent, predominantly white schools.

Testimony was initially heard in federal Judge John Nixon’s courtroom, but he has since recused himself from the case.

The suit, Spurlock v. Fox, highlights the situation of Jeffrey and Frances Spurlock, who contend the district’s plan re-zoned their African American daughter from a high-performing middle school in Bellevue to a low-performing school in historically black North Nashville.

In a memo supporting the defendant’s motion to dismiss, Metro attorneys claim Metro’s schools’ racial demographics “do not remotely approach the stark conditions of racial separation” found in cities where the U.S. Supreme Court has found segregation. They assert the district’s racial diversity has increased in the time between the 2008-09 school year and the 2010-11 school year.

Two figures they cite are:

• The percentage of all Metro schools with no single racial or ethnic minority group in the majority has increased from 28.15 percent to 36.03 percent.

• The percentage of schools with at least 10 percent or more of three different racial groups has increased from 42.96 percent to 50 percent.

The original suit, however, hinges on the situation with Pearl-Cohn and Hillwood high schools and clusters. For decades, African-American students in North Nashville near MetroCenter had bused across town to attend Hillwood, situated in the heavily white, more affluent West Meade neighborhood.

The district’s 2009 student assignment plan re-zoned these students back to their North Nashville “neighborhood school,” Pearl-Cohn. Still, the rezoning plan allowed these students to continue busing to West Nashville if they chose. The Spurlocks alleged they weren’t given that choice.

Metro’s motion to dismiss says the district’s data suggests the rezoning plan did not have a “segregative effect” on Pearl-Cohn. The high school’s African-American population has increased from 79.4 percent in 2008-09 to 80.5 percent in 2010-11.

African-American student percentages rose at three Pearl-Cohn cluster schools and fell at three others, Metro’s memo says.

Regarding Hillwood, Metro attorneys contend that rises or decreases in ethnic representation did not result in “racial isolation.” They claim white enrollment increased at five cluster schools between 2008-09 and 2009-10, but the white percentages were still below 50 percent at three of them. The other two schools are approximately two-thirds white, Metro claims.

Meanwhile, plaintiffs have amended their suit to allege that publicly financed, privately operated charter schools have perpetuated racial segregation in Metro schools.

According to plaintiffs’ data, the five Nashville charter schools operating in 2010-11 all had African-American populations greater than 90 percent. Eleven charter schools operate today.

“Charter schools are a new and rapidly growing phenomenon in Metro Nashville and elsewhere,” the complaint reads, “but the defendants are using them in part to perpetuate the racial and ethnic isolation they have created in the school system.”

Enrollment into Metro’s charter schools is based on state law. Until last spring, when the state approved a new open enrollment law, only students who qualify for free and reduced lunches were eligible for charter schools. Students who fall under this category are disproportionately minority.

17 Comments on this post:

By: BigPapa on 2/28/12 at 11:00

This stuff is such a joke. The racebaiters in the country have found a cash cow that will never die. Nothing in this mentions the progress of the students, test scores etc.. it's just numbers.

As long as each school receives the same services why does it matter what color the kid is that's sitting in the desk? Isn't assuming that if most of the kids are black it must be bad a racist attitude? Or these people willing to go into court and state that there is no way you can expect a majority black school to succeed because "you know how we are, you know what how we do."

By: Rasputin72 on 2/28/12 at 11:40

Civilized parents......Now is the time to make your sacrifice and get your kids out of the Metro Nashville school system. Having your children as a minority in a crime and ghetto laden welfare school is the last thing you want for your children.

By: NewYorker1 on 2/28/12 at 1:27

Better yet, stop having children. It's expensive, they get on your nerves, and it takes money from you that you could be enjoying your own life traveling and seeing the world, shopping at Neiman Marcus, etc. Having kids just seems like a big waste to me. It doesn't seem enjoyable at all. I'm so GLAD I don't having any. I booked a flight to Paris yesterday for my up-coming birthday.

By: conservarage on 2/28/12 at 2:47

we're glad you're not having any either.

By: NewYorker1 on 2/28/12 at 3:26

conservarage, don't hate because I live a fabulous life without children.

By: NewYorker1 on 2/28/12 at 3:35

There are a lot of haters in this world. Life is so short so why burden yourself with kids? I just don't understand it. Even if I made a mistake and had a child, he or she would be in a boarding school somewhere and perhaps come home during Christmas.

By: spooky24 on 2/28/12 at 4:46

The race card is all they have left. Everything else we have heard before-many times.

By: Rasputin72 on 2/29/12 at 11:53

New Yorker1.......I want you to know that I appreciate your honor and integrity. Sending the unwanted kids to boarding school is the only humanitarian way of dealing with a mis-adventure of this type. When they are home at Christmas it gives both of you the chance to again re-affirm why you sent he or she to boarding school. It also gives the child a chance to see why boarding school is a better choice for he or she as well.

There is no place like Paris to spend a special event like a birthday.

By: NewYorker1 on 2/29/12 at 2:38

Thanks Rasputin72. I am so HAPPY somebody understands and agrees.

By: NewYorker1 on 2/29/12 at 2:44

In addition, having kids destroys a women's body. Her body is no longer cute after she gives birth. Ewww! Gross.

By: govskeptic on 2/29/12 at 2:56

Another unnecessary "Schools case" based on Law Firm looking for
revenue. When are the Federal Courts ever going to get wise to this
wreckage of the system and taxpayer coffers!

By: BigPapa on 3/1/12 at 7:48

You should attend your neighborhood school, unless another school offers a program that yours does not, or you are opting to attend one of the magnet schools.

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