On August 26, 2016, LDF, on behalf of the plaintiff class of Black students in an ongoing school desegregation case, filed an objection in federal court to the city of Gardendale, Alabama’s secession from the Jefferson County School District in order to form a separate predominately white school district.
In 2014, the city of Gardendale announced its intention to separate from the Jefferson County School District, shortly after the county built a new $51 million high school in the city, for the use of all county students. Contrary to legal precedent, Gardendale, which is both whiter and wealthier than the average, has claimed that it has no responsibility to continue to desegregate the public schools that it seeks to control. LDF with local counsel, Judge U.W. Clemon, and joined by the Department of Justice and the Jefferson County Board of Education—has opposed Gardendale’s efforts to separate from the county school system. Plaintiffs oppose this secession because it furthers segregation in the county and impedes the ability of the county school system to desegregate, by creating a school district that will be disproportionately whiter than the county as a whole and force students to go more racially segregated schools. This matter will be resolved by a federal judge following a trial this winter.
In 1965, eleven years after Supreme Court’s seminal decision in Brown v. Board of Education, LDF with local counsel, Oscar Adams, successfully sued the Jefferson County Board of Education in 1965 on behalf of a class of Black schoolchildren. The lawsuit sought to bring an end to the district’s separate and unequal educational system.
After several years of litigation, a federal trial court imposed a remedial desegregation plan in 1971, which remains in effect today. The 1971 Order required the Jefferson County schools to change their practices in a number of different areas, including school construction, alteration of zone lines, transfers, and the assignment of faculty, staff and students.
Since the outset of the suit, the parties have made progress to remove some vestiges of the previously segregated school system, but progress in the county has been obstructed by “white flight” splinter districts—individual municipalities within the county that leave the county school district to form their own independent municipal district. These communities are typically much whiter than the county and consistently wealthier, and their departure removes valuable resources from the county schools while increasing the racial imbalance in those schools.