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LDF to Deliver Oral Arguments in Eleventh Circuit in Ongoing Fight to Desegregate Alabama School District
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) will appear before a federal appeals court today to continue its effort to desegregate an Alabama school district. Along with local counsel and retired federal judge, the Honorable U.W. Clemon, and the Jefferson County Board of Education, LDF opposes the City of Gardendale’s plan to separate from Jefferson County school district.
In 2014, the City of Gardendale attempted to secede from the more racially diverse Jefferson County school system to create a predominantly white school district. Last year, a federal court judge found that Gardendale’s secession was motivated by intentional racial discrimination, but still allowed the district to secede and to take with it two elementary schools. LDF urges the court to prohibit Gardendale’s secession plan because it was designed to reduce the number of Black children in Gardendale’s schools impedes the ability of Jefferson County to follow through with a court-ordered racial desegregation plan.
“The District Court has already determined that Gardendale’s effort to forge its own school district discriminated against African-American students,” said Samuel Spital, LDF’s Litigation Director. “In this appeal, we urge the Court to prohibit Gardendale from creating a separate, segregated school district at the expense of the broader community. All children have the right to learn and coexist together, and public officials should ensure that they be permitted to do so.”
In 1965, LDF sued the Jefferson County Board of Education to end the school district’s separate and unequal educational system. After years of litigation, the federal district court agreed that Jefferson County had violated Black students’ right to an integrated education. The court issued an order in 1971 requiring Jefferson County to integrate its schools and to change a number of its practices, including its approach to school construction, student transfers, and the assignment of students and faculty. The court order is still being enforced today.
In 2010, Jefferson County built a $51 million high school within the city limits of Gardendale, an affluent and largely white municipality in Jefferson County. The new school was designed to further integration in Jefferson County by drawing a racially diverse group of students from different parts of the county. However, after construction of the high school was completed, Gardendale residents announced their intention to carve out their own independent municipal school system. They also announced that they would take the new, state-of-the-art high school with them.
Despite the fact that the new school was funded by taxes paid by all Jefferson County taxpayers – including those who would be excluded from the proposed Gardendale school district – Gardendale created its own Board of Education to serve a mostly white student body.
If Gardendale’s secession plan succeeds, it will create a school district that will be significantly whiter than the county as a whole, and will force students to attend more racially segregated schools.
“More than 60 years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, equal access to education is still not a reality for Black schoolchildren,” said Chris Kemmitt, Senior Counsel at LDF. “All students benefit from integrated schools, and Gardendale is just one example of a disturbing and contemporary re-segregation trend seen not just in Jefferson County, but throughout the nation.”
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF