Lower Merion Schools Sued

Jim McCaffrey, The Bulletin (Philadelphia), September 4, 2007

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The Concerned Black Parents of Lower Merion and six families in the Lower Merion School District have filed a class action lawsuit alleging discrimination in Lower Merion classrooms.

The suit, filed last Thursday, was announced at a press conference yesterday in Ardmore. The press conference was hosted by Loraine Carter, of the Concerned Black Parents, Barbara Ransom, of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, and Diana Robertson, of the Main Line branch of the NAACP.

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The allegations in the suit are not new in the district. In fact, they are not new in school districts along the Main Line from Lower Merion to Tredyffrin/Easttown. Black parents allege that school districts segregate black students into remedial or modified classes—and the students stay there.

The parents cite as partial proof the just released progress report on the state standardized testing. The district must achieve “Annual Yearly Progress” on those tests under the federal law known as No Child Left Behind.

They note that the report demonstrates the longer black kids remain in the school district, the farther they fall behind their peers in testing.

That is, 13 percent of black students in Lower Merion schools score below basic in the fifth grade, 24 percent in the eighth grade, and 36 percent in the 11th grade. Just 3 percent of white students scored below basic in the fifth grade, 5 percent in the eighth grade, and 8 percent in the 11th grade.

The parents also point out while only 7.5 percent of the 6,800 students in Lower Merion schools are black, remedial classes can be as much as 90-100 percent black.

“We are . . . insisting that the district listen to us and change the academic blight African Americans face, as do Hispanics, low-income, and ‘dis-enabled’ students. We believe that every single child has a legal right to a public education and since we’re paying so much for it, we might as well get it right for each of them,” Carter said Monday.

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“Today more than 30 percent, or one of every three black students, are receiving some form of special education. Too many of these students are receiving an education on the lowest academic levels possible in the district as indicated by course designations such as modified or active.”

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