Federal Court Blocks Alabama City’s Effort to Form New School System Citing Racial Motives

Luis Sanchez, The Hill, February 13, 2018

A federal court ruled on Tuesday that Gardendale, a northern suburb of Birmingham, Ala., cannot leave the Jefferson County school district to form its own school system.

A three-judge panel on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the attempt by Gardendale to secede from the county had racial motives. Gardendale had cited local rights as its motive for seceding, AL.com reported, but the panel said the city’s attempt to form its own school system was done with “a discriminatory purpose.”

“The district court found that the Gardendale Board acted with a discriminatory purpose to exclude black children from the proposed school system and, alternatively, that the secession of the Gardendale Board would impede the efforts of the Jefferson County Board to fulfill its desegregation obligations,” the 11th Circuit Court wrote. “Despite these findings, the district court devised and permitted a partial secession that neither party requested.”

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However, the court said Tuesday that Gardendale could still secede in the future if it did not go against the Jefferson County Board’s desegregation efforts.

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In the past, cities have been allowed to split from Jefferson County if they still abided by the desegregation order until the city became nondiscriminatory, AL.com reported.

Secession efforts similar to Gardendale’s are going on around the country. Dozens of districts have tried to break off from larger school districts since 2000, according to U.S. News and World Report.

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