Deal could end desegregation case in Alabama school system

LaFAYETTE, Ala. (AP) — A federal judge will review a deal between the Justice Department, civil rights attorneys and school officials in an eastern Alabama county that could end more than 50 years of federal surveillance of the desegregation of the system.

Consent decree between Georgia line Chambers County school officials, government and Legal Defense Fund attorneys includes construction of new school and more opportunities for black students in the county about 35,000 people, officials said.

The deal was announced on Friday to end a desegregation order that had been in place since 1970. It followed a previous tentative deal reached in 1993.

“We are pleased to arrive at a consent decree that addresses the many concerns our clients have raised as essential to ensuring the effectiveness of the desegregation process in Chambers County,” said GeDá Jones Herbert, attorney at Legal Defense fund. “It was especially important that black students in the district had equal, high-quality educational opportunities in safe, modern facilities.”

Under the agreement, the parties negotiated for years to reach the proposed settlement, announced nearly 70 years after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered an end to racial segregation in public schools.

“This proposed consent order reinforces the Civil Rights Division’s unwavering commitment to ensuring that all students receive the same educational opportunities to which they are entitled, regardless of race or color,” the Attorney General said. Deputy Kristen Clarke in a statement.

Under the agreement, the school district will form a desegregation advisory committee that will have its input on issues such as consolidating high school students and improving opportunities for students in science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

Before the end of the next school year, the district must choose a site to build a new Consolidated High School to replace LaFayette High School, which is heavily black, and Valley High School, which has a large white student population. The agreement stated that the new location “shall not place an unequal burden on students on the basis of race, to the extent practicable.”

Students in LaFayette, a majority black city, will temporarily transfer to the school in Valley, which is majority white, but not until the start of the school year after construction begins, according to the agreement.

The school system allowed no deliberate segregation.

Jeremy S. McLain