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Judge Reverses Decision Allowing White Alabama Community to Secede from Majority Black School District

Gardendale Alabama

Last year, a district court approved Gardendale resident’s request to form its own school system,but only under certain conditions. (Image courtesy of UAB News)

The predominately white city of Gardendale, Ala. won’t be allowed to secede from the largely Black Jefferson County school district after all, thanks to a recent appeals court ruling.

The U.S Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled on Tuesday, to reverse a district court decision that would’ve allowed residents of Gardendale to partially break from the county school district. Judge William Pryor defended the decision, saying Glendale’s request to split and create its own district was discriminatory, and that the district court “abused its discretion” in allowing the secession to go forward.

“Instead of denying the motion to secede, the district court – unprompted by either party – devised its own secession plan,” Pryor said in his decision. ” … In doing so, it weighed a number of impermissible considerations and thereby abused its discretion.”

In August, lawyers representing Black students in the Jefferson County school district urged the court of appeals to reverse the initial ruling, arguing that such a move wouldn’t only go against longstanding case law, but also undermine the civil rights of Black students.

District Court Judge Madeline Haikala acknowledged that “race was a motivating factor” in Gardendale residents’ request to form their own district yet still decided to rule in their favor. Glendale community leaders claimed they sort more control over how their tax dollars are spent because some students were missing out on field trips, school supplies and better teachers. They alleged that “their education dollars are instead used to bus in students from other communities or to shore up school operations at other schools in communities with lower property values,” according to U.S. News.

There were a few conditions, however. The would-be school system would have to appoint an African-American to its school board and come up with a plan to prevent discrimination.

None of that would come to fruition, thanks to Tuesday’s ruling.

“More than 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, equal access to education is still not a reality for many Black schoolchildren,” Chris Kemmitt, senior counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said in a statement. “… This court decision confirms the importance of our continuing efforts to ensure educational equity for all.”

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