A small Alabama city that was once successful in seceding from a multiracial school district to start its own all-white segregated school district got some sobering news this week.
While a federal judge approved the racially motivated move in 2017, several lawyers representing Black students in Jefferson County’s School system moved to overturn it. Now, adding insult to injury, AL.com reports that the city of Gardendale, a majority-White enclave near Birmingham, is being ordered to fork over $850,000 to pay for the legal fees of those Black students “who successfully prevented the city from creating its own school district.”
AL.com wrote that “U.S. District Court Judge Madeline Haikala said in her ruling issued Monday that the awarding of fees to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and former federal judge U.W. Clemon were warranted because Gardendale “acted in bad faith” both when it attempted to set up the district and during the litigation.”
Haikala is the same judge who in 2017 ruled in favor of the new, segregated school district.
Clemon, who was representing the Black plaintiffs, previously said that creating an all-white school district would undermine more than half a century of integration efforts.
The initial ruling to move forward with a new, segregated school district put a spotlight on segregation some 60 years after the Little Rock Nine tried to integrate a school in Arkansas. At the time in 2017, NAACP LDF representative Monique Lin-Luse argued that the order would “disrupt the county’s compliance of a desegregation order.”
The ruling in 2017 permitted 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.
In her ruling against Gardendale on Monday, Haikala pointed to racist social media posts from residents who said they didn’t want Gardendale to become so-called Black city.
“The messages of racial inferiority from the separation organizers and from the Gardendale Board [of Education] were public and unmistakable,” she wrote in her ruling. “It is enough simply to recognize that in its refusal to speak to parents of class members from North Smithfield, the Gardendale Board treated those students as tokens to be numbered and included in a municipal district only if necessary to achieve a court-ordered racial quota,” Haikala wrote. “The message is one of fungibility, like so many commercial goods counted and exchanged. Indeed, one of the separation organizers characterized the eleventh-hour inclusion of the North Smithfield students in the Gardendale municipal district as ‘a price to pay to gain approval for separation.’”
The problem reached a fever pitch last year in New York City when parents freaked out at the prospects of poor Black and brown kids learning next to their children. One woman even hypothesized that if their school is more segregated, the rich white kids might be shut out.
This is America.