JCPS Delays High School Student Assignment and Appeals to Kentucky Supreme Court

by Devin Katayama on October 11, 2011

The Jefferson County Board of Education will appeal an appellate court ruling that allows students to attend their neighborhood school. As a result of the court’s decision, the board also voted at Monday’s meeting to delay implementation of new boundaries and assignments for high school students next year.

Delaying the JCPS high school assignment plan prevents changes the district may have to make later, said board member Linda Duncan.

“The difficulty now is if we would proceed with the adjustments for the high school boundaries and the court ruling went against us we would be implementing those new boundaries and having to grandfather those kids,” said Duncan. “We would be still grandfathering the present plan and then on top of it we would be redesigning our system to return to neighborhood schools,” she said.

The board’s vote was unanimous and is the second time it has decided to delay its high school student assignment plan. New middle school boundaries and assignments began this year.

The district continues to search for ways to build diversity in it schools. JCPS has been tied up in court since 2007 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided the district needed to create a student assignment plan without using race as the sole indicator for a school’s makeup. JCPS changed its plan and now uses race as one of three factors to determine where students go to school. Several JCPS parents then filed suit arguing that language in state law says students have the right to attend the same school where they enroll, which is their local neighborhood school.

“For us what it would result in is a re-segregation of our schools as well as an ending to our magnet programs,” said Duncan.

Specialty programs, like magnet schools, may be protected against the new law, according to language in the Court of Appeals’ opinion. But it would create problems for the district, such as transporting thousands of students who may be grandfathered in to certain schools.

If the Kentucky Supreme Court decides to hear the case, it could take over a year before a decision is reached, which would delay JCPS having to comply with the appellates court decision.

Attorney Teddy Gordon, who represents the parents on the suit filed against JCPS, wrote in a statement his disappointment that JCPS continues to spend money on litigation.

JCPS attorney Byron Leet was unable to say how much money the district has spent for cases before both the Circuit Court and the Court of Appeals.

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