Mayor Karl Dean is among the witnesses set to testify in the long-running legal battle on Metro schools’ rezoning plan, a suit centered on allegations of deliberate racial segregation that will have another day in federal court next week.
Spurlock v. Fox, a 3-year-old suit spurred on by a controversial 2008 Metro schools student assignment plan, is scheduled to go before U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Sharp on May 1. Plaintiffs suing the Metro school board subpoenaed the mayor and have listed several top Metro school officials as potential witnesses.
“The plaintiffs want to discuss with the mayor what the school board and what the task force [on student assignment] was telling the mayor in 2008 when they were confronted with charges that rezoning would create racially isolated schools,” plaintiffs’ attorney Larry Woods told The City Paper.
“We want to know what the insider discussion was about that at the courthouse,” he said.
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 recused himself from the case last year.
The suit 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.
The 2008 student assignment plan, which still exists today, gives parents the choice to send their children to their previously zoned schools. The Spurlocks, however, allege they weren’t given an option.
“The plaintiffs have asked [the mayor] to testify,” Metro Department of Law Director Saul Solomon told The City Paper. “We don’t think he has much relevant information, but he’s happy to testify in support of what we think is not only a lawful districting plan, but one that is fair and equitable.”
Other potential witnesses listed by the plaintiffs include: Director of Schools Jesse Register; the school district’s Alan Coverstone, Jay Steele, Chris Weber, June Keel and Sharon Chaney; the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Ralph Schulz, Marc Hill and Debby Dale Mason; and school board members who approved the original student assignment plan.