‘White Flight’ From Hearne Ruled Illegal

Craig Kapitan, Bryan-College Station Eagle (Tex.), Aug. 9

Hundreds of students who have transferred from Hearne to the Mumford Independent School District will have to go home to reverse an illegal “white flight” trend that has segregated the districts, according to a ruling delivered out of a federal court in Tyler last week.

In the 110-page document, Senior U.S. District Court Judge William Wayne Justice described Mumford as maintaining a “pattern of fraudulent conduct” in past years as it solicited transfers from Hearne, increasing its enrollment of white students over a 10-year period by 3,540 percent.

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Hearne desegregated its schools in the 1970s as a result of No.5281, but white families remained reluctant to send their children to a formerly all-black school in a predominantly black area of town, the judge wrote, citing testimony from Morris McDaniel, who retired in 2002 as the town’s first black superintendent.

In response, he continued, the school district began an “ability grouping” plan where students were divided among two elementary schools separated into lower ability and higher ability classes. The result was a resegregation of the schools.

After an accreditation by the TEA in 1990, however, the district dropped the plan. Hearne’s overall enrollment of white students began declining each year after, while Mumford’s population began a steady ascent.

“Hearne parents started transferring their children in earnest around 1991 or 1992,” Justice wrote. “Even Hearne school board members transferred their children out of [formerly all black] Blackshear [Elementary School].

“As the leaders of Hearne, these members’ decisions to transfer their children raised serious questions in the community about their school district and exacerbated the transfer problem for Hearne.”

Between 1990 and 2000 Hearne’s white enrollment decreased by 68 percent. Meanwhile, Mumford’s population of white students grew by 3,540 percent during that same time period.

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As a result, he wrote, Hearne now is perceived as a black school district, creating negative and unsubstantiated stereotypes concerning the safety of students.

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