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Federal Judge Approves Alabama School District's Desegregation Plan

The Madison County (Ala.) Board of Education agreed to work toward ensuring that Black students have equal access to education, reported.Kristen ClarkeKristen Clarke

U.S. District Court Judge Madeline H. Haikala of the Northern District of Alabama gave an 18-page ruling July 5 that approved a consent order that sets out actions the school district must take to ensure Black children have equal access to educational opportunities in the district.

“It is long past time to deliver on the promises of Brown v. Board of Education for our nation’s students,” said Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Madison County’s schools must address alleged discrimination of Black students and Black teachers in areas such as gifted education and Advanced Placement courses, student discipline, and faculty hiring and retention. The district will be monitored for three years under the order before next steps can be taken.

“We can assure parents that we have already started and will continue to enhance the equity work we do for their children,” said Dr. Rachel Ballard, the district’s director of equity and innovation. “We’re confident that at the end of three years we will have fulfilled the requirements of the consent order.”

A discipline equity consultant must be hired within 60 days, according to the consent order. The district must also form an 11-member desegregation advisory committee from a cross-section of the community by Sept. 15. The district must submit annual reports each November.

Madison County is one of nearly 50 Alabama school districts still under federal desegregation orders issued in the 1960s and 1970s because of court cases alleging schools had dual school systems for white students and Black students.

According to enrollment data from the 2021-22 school year, Madison County had 19,167 students — 4,326 (23%) were Black, 11,268 (59%) were white, 1,315 were Hispanic or Latino, 1,003 identified as being of two or more races, and 982 were American Indian.

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