Hearing Held On JCPS Student Assignment Suit

by Rick Howlett on August 5, 2010

A circuit judge will issue a ruling next week in the latest lawsuit challenging the Jefferson County Public Schools student assignment plan.

Thirteen parents are now plaintiffs in the suit.

The challenge contends that JCPS is in violation of a state law that says children should be allowed to enroll in the public school closest to their home. The parents argue that the law is no longer trumped by a federal
desegregation plan for the county that was lifted ten years ago.

JCPS officials counter that the law is being misread.             

“This statute is what our attorneys have said it has meant. And that is that students have a right to enroll in a school nearest them but not necessarily attend, and the school board has the right to create attendance zones,” JCPS Superintendent Sheldon Berman (right) said after a one-hour hearing in Jefferson Circuit Court.

Parent TeriLynn Ralston joined the suit after the district assigned her six year old son to a school 15 miles from home. She says she’s in favor of school diversity, but not the way it’s being pursued.

“I think there could be a better plan in place to achieve the goal that they would like to see with the diversity. There’s just got to be a better way,” she said.

Attorney J. Bruce Miller represents several parents in the suit. He says the district doesn’t even need a desegregation plan anymore.

“We had a hundred years of politicians after the Civil War that segregated the schools, we’ve gotten over that. So we don’t have to do it now. We do it because we have a school board and a superintendent who are socially engineering how this community works,” Miller said.                                

Jefferson Circuit Judge Irv Maze says he’ll issue a decision next Thursday on a motion to dismiss the suit.    Both sides say they’re prepared to appeal if Maze decides against them.

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