Many U.S. counties have made moves to re-establish the Jim-crow era segregated education system through loopholes that exist in the justice system.
Though about four-fifths of the town's people are white, nearly 25 percent of the students at the county's school is Black. The main contributor is the nearby working-class town, North Smithfield – a predominantly Black community – which falls under the same school district.
Gardendale's secession would not impose an outright ban on the attendance of Black students, but rather threatens to significantly decrease their numbers.
Many U.S. counties have made similar moves to re-establish the Jim-crow era segregated education system, using loopholes that exist in the justice system.
At the federal level, the 1954 landmark Supreme Court ruling “Brown v. Board of Education” outlawed segregation and declared state laws that deemed separating public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional, but several states have subsequently made rulings to override the decision.
According to a 1991 Supreme Court ruling in the Board of Education of Oklahoma City v. Dowell, lower court judges reserve the power to dissolve desegregation plans if they reckon the districts have accomplished as much integration as was feasible. This ruling has provided an easy exit path for many districts.
Since 2000, over 250 districts under the Justice Department have been declared "unitary," meaning they’ve done all that is "feasible" to be able to eliminate their Jim Crow systems.
"If Gardendale is successful," U. W. Clemon, a retired federal judge, told the Nation, "every other majority-white community that wishes to withdraw from a metro system under [court] order can do so."
The secession or the withdrawal from government-led public school systems has gained momentum in the last decade or so. Nearly 30 states have allowed communities to form their own public school systems.
According to a recent study by EdBuild, a nonpartisan organization focused on improving the way states fund public education, nearly 71 communities – predominantly white and wealthy – have sought to form smaller and more exclusive school districts.
A 2012 campaign led by a Gardendale parents' group called Focus, Future of Our Community Utilizing Schools asked its residents, “Which path will Gardendale choose?” referring to whether the residents would want to choose the path where communities have "formed their own school systems" and are, as a result, "listed as some of the best places to live in the country."
Following a successful lobby in 2013, Gardendale’s all-white City Council voted to create a separate school system. But, since the township falls under Jefferson County, it is still bound by decades-old school desegregation court orders resulting from a 1954 ruling against segregation, and thus needs a federal ruling to move forward.
As a result of the anti-segregation ruling, Jefferson County became one of the most integrated counties in the United States from 1968 to 1980. But federal negligence caused the number of Black students attending segregated schools in southern states to fall from almost 80 percent to approximately 23 percent.
In 2000, an estimated 430 school districts were under federal court order to desegregate. But, 176 still remained segregated. Most of the remaining districts under supervision are in "Deep South," states including Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia.
Currently, nearly 8.4 million Black and Latino children are enrolled in segregated and poorer school districts. This has evoked concern from activists who fear U.S. President Donald Trump administration may overturn the 63-year-old effort to erase Jim Crow laws.
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