Washington Post — Emma Brown, April 27, 2017. Accessed 4/28/2017
Photo credit: A view of posters of last year’s football and cheerleading squads at Bragg Middle School in Gardendale in August 2016. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)
A federal judge’s ruling this week that allows a predominantly white Alabama city to separate from its more diverse school district is stoking new debate about the fate of desegregation initiatives after decades of efforts to promote racial balance in public education.
Judge Madeline Haikala of the U.S. District Court in Birmingham ruled that the city of Gardendale’s effort to break away was motivated by race and sent messages of racial inferiority and exclusion that “assail the dignity of black schoolchildren.”
She also found that Gardendale failed to meet its legal burden to prove that its separation would not hinder desegregation in Jefferson County, which has been struggling to integrate its schools since black parents first sued for an equal education for their children in the 1960s.
Still, Haikala ruled Monday that Gardendale may move forward with the secession, basing her decision in part on sympathy for some parents who want local control over schools and in part on concern for black students caught in the middle. The judge wrote that she feared they would bear the blame if she blocked the city’s bid.
U.W. Clemon, who represents black plaintiffs in the case, said the ruling undermines more than half a century of integration efforts. “If this decision stands, it will have a tremendous adverse impact,” Clemon said.