Decades Old Lawsuit Will Force Fayette County SchoolsTo Further Desegregate
(Fayette County, TN) Fayette County schools may look very different in two years.
The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee approved a plan on Tuesday, that was created under joint agreement by the Board of Education of Fayette County, Tennessee, and the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund.
This plan aims to desegregate the schools, nearly 50 years after the initial lawsuit was filed.
In 1965, Viola McFerren filed a lawsuit against Fayette County Public Schools on behalf of her son, John McFerren Jr. She accused the school district of being segregated.
Now in 2012, U.S. Attorney Edward L. Stanton III states, “This consent order is a significant landmark in this desegregation case, which dates back to 1965. Implementation of the order will ensure that students in Fayette County are educated in a manner consistent with the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. I commend all parties to the litigation for their commitment to resolving the case.”
The plan states that by the 2014-2015 school year, two of Fayette County’s elementary schools will close, and a new one will open. Another elementary school will become a magnet school, with the aim of attracting students from all over the county.
Specifically, Jefferson Elementary and Somerville Elementary will close while a new school will be constructed in the north part of Somerville.
Leticia Smith-Evans, an attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, said Jefferson Elementary is predominantly black, while Somerville Elementary is predominantly white. She said a previous court order in the 1970s ordered Somerville to be shut down in order for the two student bodies to integrate, but that never happened.
Smith-Evans said this new plan was brought about by joint agreement, and the school district is required to give annual reports to the court.
Northwest Elementary will turn into a magnet school. Northwest, currently the elementary school with the highest percentage of African-Americans, would develop a specialization in one subject.
In addition, Oakland Elementary, Southwest Elementary, and the newly constructed school will be part of a region using a system of “controlled choice.”
After re-zoning, those people living in the areas of those three schools will be able to rank their school preferences. The district will then attempt to match those preferences while creating appropriately diverse student bodies.
The definition of “student racial diversity” is 15 percentage points within the district-wide proportion of African-American and Caucasian student enrollment.
All elementary schools would be required to implement a uniform gifted program, and the high school would need to add more advanced placement courses.
The court expects these changes to occur within a couple of years. After monitoring progress for several more years, the court will then decide if the school district achieves “unitary status,” effectively ending the desegregation case.