Rayville Elementary School in Louisiana received a failing grade this year, based on the state’s School Performance Scores. Under the state’s Public School Choice policy, eligible students in schools flagged as failing and in need of certain levels of improvement can transfer to an “academically acceptable school.”

But an interesting and controversial issue has arisen that may actually challenge equal opportunity intended by the law. In a letter to parents dated July 25, Rayville Elementary school officials inform families of the school’s “F” grade and list two other institutions—with letter grades C- and B—that the parents can choose to transfer their children to. But there’s a disclaimer:

Please note that white students at Rayville Elementary School will not be allowed to transfer to the listed schools due to the present provisions issued in the federal Richland Parish School desegregation case.

The case in question refers to a 1968 court decision that, in an effort to maintain desegregated schools, prohibits white students from leaving schools if their departure could cause the school to be considered “all-Negro.”

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But similar notifications have been sent to Richland Parish parents before.

A 2008 letter sent to families of Delhi Elementary School, estimated at the time to yield a failing SPS, were also offered a transfer option, but with a similar disclaimer:

Due to the court order, students may be offered a choice in the school in which their race would be in the minority. White students may be offered Rayville Elementary School. Black students may be offered Holly Ridge Elementary School or Start Elementary School.

At the time, Rayville, where the white students were permitted to go, was estimated to have an SPS at least 20 points below those for Holly Ridge and Start.

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Louisiana’s School Performance Scores are based on varying combinations of testing results, attendance, dropout and graduation rates as well as growth and performance data.

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See the letter to Rayville Elementary parents below:

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