Alabama School District’s Secession Plans In Gardendale Under Attack By NAACP

Tara Dodrill - Author

Aug. 11 2017, Updated 6:50 a.m. ET

An Alabama school district’s secession plan has garnered a swift and unhappy response from the NAACP. The civil rights group issued a message directly to the majority white town of Gardendale after a federal judge approved the plan to splinter the racially diverse school.

Gardendale took legal steps to secede from the Jefferson County, Alabama school district in April. Judge Madeline Haikala ruled the town could separate from the existing public school and form their own even though “race was a motivating factor.”

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The NAACP has vowed to appeal the Alabama secession ruling by the federal judge. Chris Kemmitt, senior legal counsel for the civil rights advocacy group, maintains the court permitted Gardendale to secede from the Jefferson County school district even though the move was designed to explicitly exclude black students.

Judge Madeline Haikala’s ruling stated some of the residents of Gardendale are worried about shifting racial demographics in the town. The federal judge went on to say some citizens are concerned their town will ultimately become predominantly black like nearby Center Point.

“These citizens prefer a predominantly white city,” Judge Haikala’s ruling concluded.

The appeal filed by the NAACP in the Alabama school district secession case asks the court to follow the judge’s findings to their “logical conclusion” and thwart the efforts of the town of Gardendale to create their own “segregated” school district. The NAACP believes if the school secession plans are allowed to move forward, it will be at the “expense of the broader community,” MSN reports.

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The federal judge also stated she ruled in favor of the Alabama school district secession to be “fair” to Gardendale parents who want their own school district for reasons which are not at all race related. Judge Haikala reserved the right to reverse the school secession decision if Gardendale returns to its segregated past.

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The Alabama town has been attempting to secede from the existing public school district for many years, according to the Gardendale Board of Education website.

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“We believe that having local control over the city’s schools will give the community a sense of pride and ownership. Research has demonstrated that schools benefit from being in a community that is directly invested in their success. From an economic standpoint, forming a city school system in Gardendale should allow us to flourish.”

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Gardendale is a suburb of Birmingham. The town has a population of about 14,000 people. The population of the Alabama town is approximately 88 percent white.

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Jefferson County has a population of about 658,000 residents. The Alabama county is approximately 42 percent black and 53 percent white.

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The Gardendale Board of Education is currently preparing its response to the NAACP appeal. The new Jefferson County school district was slated to launch this fall, but those plans have now been delayed. Judge Haikala stayed many of the provisions of her ruling because both the Gardendale school supporters and the NAACP indicated the decision would be further challenged.

What do you think about the Alabama school district secession case and the judge’s ruling?

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