A discriminatory ruling by a U.S. District Court Judge to allow modern-day segregation in schools in Gardendale, Alabama is being challenged by several lawyers representing Black students in the city. A federal appeals court was charged Thursday with weighing an overturning of Judge Madeline Haikala’s ruling in April that approved the succession plan despite racial motives, AL reported.
The order in favor of Gardendale, a majority-White enclave near Birmingham, to secede from the predominantly Black Jefferson County’s School system threatened to send reverberating messages of racial inferiority, undermine civil rights and hinder court-ordered nationwide desegregation efforts. Yet, the judge moved forward with the ruling, which spotlights segregation some 60 years after the Little Rock Nine tried to integrate a school in Arkansas. Black plaintiffs in the Gardendale case, like the Little Rock Nine, are working to push for a school system that openly accepts African Americans.
Haikala lacked the “right to allow Gardendale to create a partial system,” an order that “will disrupt the county’s compliance of a desegregation order,” former federal judge U.W. Clemon and NAACP LDF representative Monique Lin-Luse told U.S. 11th Circuit Court Of Appeals Judges William H. “Bill” Pryor, Jill Pryor (no relation to William) and Raymond Clevenger III. The county’s ideal ruling would reflect a partial reversal preventing Gardendale’s secession and a partial affirmation of Haikala’s ruling that the proposed separation was racially motivated. “The law is quite clear… you have to reject the [seperation] plan,” Lin-Luse said in the case that been ongoing for some time now.
April’s ruling from Haikala permits the city to form its own system under certain conditions, including a plan on how it will avoid discrimination. A stipulation also allowed only for the operation of two elementary schools for two years before moving into running middle and high schools. The city wants their separate system to be up and running next fall, however, a possible overturning by the appeals courts would throw a monkey wrench in that plan.
Judges will weigh charges of Gardendale’s racial motivations and if a separation of schools would impede the county’s desegregation efforts, Bill Pryor said. The panel also questions financial impacts of the city’s school secession on the county.
The case highlights a U.S. Supreme Court 1972 ruling that “school districts should not be allowed to splinter away from larger districts when such a move would get in the way of court-ordered desegregation efforts,” The Washington Post reported. Jefferson County has struggled to desegregate its schools for more than half a century. Whether segregation will be upheld in Gardendale’s case remains to be unseen.