Civil Rights Complaint Filed Against Dekalb Schools

Megan Matteucci, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 3, 2010

A parent has filed a federal civil rights complaint against the DeKalb County School System, alleging discrimination against black students.

The parent and In My Shoes-The National Parent Education Center filed the complaint Friday with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

“The complaint is under evaluation to determine if the allegations are appropriate for OCR investigation and resolution,” said Jim Bradshaw, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education.

The complaint alleges DeKalb’s International Baccalaureate program for middle school students, which is for high-achievers, is geared toward white children, Bradshaw told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday.

“Specifically, the complaint alleges that during the 2009-2010 school year, only one middle school, located in the northern section of the DeKalb County School System, has an IB program,” Bradshaw said, “and, that the predominantly non-African-American students who live in that school’s attendance area were given first priority to the IB program.”

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The district offers the international baccalaureate program at only one of its 20 middle schools–Shamrock Middle School, which is the northern end of the county. The complaint argues that the school caters to white students.

Georgia Department of Education enrollment figures for the current school year show that 50 percent of Shamrock Middle’s students are black, 21 percent are white, 13 percent are Hispanic and 11 percent are Asian.

Under board policy, DeKalb gives first preference to students who are in Shamrock’s attendance zone and then offers the remaining seats to other students through a lottery. Parents of students outside the attendance area must provide their own transportation.

“It’s clear cut racial discrimination,” said Phyllis Austin, founder and CEO of In My Shoes-The National Parent Education Center. “Because they don’t have any programs on south end, they should get equal access. They didn’t even put this child in the lottery. They just said you live out of zone and you can’t go there.”

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