Here’s some catchup on a momentous legal development last week that indicates, to me, that Arkansas believes racial segregation is lawful and will defend it.
The news was the state Education Department’s peevish acknowledgment that it must follow the order of a federal court and permit four school districts — Hope, Camden Fairview, Lafayette County and Junction City — to exempt themselves from the state school transfer law.
The law now allows school transfers for any reason and says race may not be taken into account. The state is fighting the four districts’ claim of exemption for being under federal court desegregation orders. The order didn’t originally contemplate school transfers because they were illegal in all circumstances when the court cases were decided. Since then, interdistrict transfers have been opened up and heavily used by white parents to move children to districts with smaller black enrollments.
The federal court says the four districts may consider segregative effects when transfers are sought.
And the state is NOT happy about that. Lori Freno, general counsel for the Education Department, made this clear in virtually identical letters sent to the four districts. Judge Susan Hickey’s approval of using a race consideration included in a 1989 state law when deciding on transfer requests “raises serious constitutional concerns,” Freno wrote.
This is the sentence that drew my attention:
The Department is not willing to allow a student’s race in any way be a factor, however, in whether that student may or may not exercise choice under the law to transfer from the Camden Fairview School District.
The letter goes on to say that the judge’s order is being appealed, but the state has no choice at the moment but to allow the judge’s ruling to stand for the 2019-20 school year in the four districts.
Freno’s letter articulates as official state policy the legalization of the very thing the segregationists sought in the 1960s. Freedom of choice and racial motivation, even when evident, may NOT be considered a bar.
When the school choice crowd says it’s not about race, it’s about race.
In the last year, the four districts were required to allow transfers before the judge modified their desegregation order. This was how the transfer process went:
* Hope — 16 of 21 transfers were white. 2 were white/Pacific Islanders. 2 were black. 1 was Hispanic.
* Camden Fairview — Of 15 transfers, 14 were white. The other child was two or more races.
* Lafayette County — All 34 were white.
* Junction City — All 5 were white.