At a recent meeting, the Huntsville City Schools (HCS) Board of Education (BOE) gave an update on where the system stands regarding its court-ordered desegregation plan.
Since 2015, HCS has been under a federal consent order to implement racial equity practices and diversity quotas systemwide. Once the district can demonstrate it has achieved "unitary status," meaning it has met specific demographic goals, it will no longer be under federal supervision.
On Tuesday, attorney for the BOE Christopher Pape said the board plans to submit a motion for partial unitary status in the area of faculty and staff, WHNT reported. He said the board had already achieved partial unitary status for transportation.
"The board did this in 2019 for transportation," Pape said. "Now, we're in 2022, and we're moving for these next two factors."
Other areas to be addressed for unitary status include student assignment, facilities, extracurricular activities, student discipline, and "equitable access" to course offerings.
Members of the public can view the partial unitary status motion on the system's website. The board plans to hold a public meeting on November 29 to discuss the motion and then vote on it on December 15.
"If the Court grants the district's motion, it would mean that the court recognizes that the board does not maintain racially discriminatory practices in the areas of faculty and staff," a summary of the motion stated. "[T]he Board will still be obligated to comply with the requirements of the April 2015 Consent Order as it relates to sections other than transportation and faculty."
HCS Superintendent Christie Finley wrote an affidavit in support of the motion explaining how the school system will continue to uphold the spirit of the consent order if and when it is no longer under federal authority.
"The key feature of many of these procedures, such as the various screening and interview committees, is the district's commitment to ensuring that the teams responsible for implementation are diverse," Finley stated in her affidavit. "... While a grant of partial unitary status for faculty and staff assignment would remove the district's ability to make decisions based on race, the bulk of the district's procedures do not rely on decisions made based on a person's race. Instead, the District team has been able to meet its obligations by ensuring that its focus is on diversity."
The 2015 consent order is not the first the school system has been under related to the desegregation plan.
"The first desegregation order, dating back to September 2, 1970, established the District's initial faculty and staff obligations," the motion stated. "The 1970 Order required the District to assign all 'principals, teachers, teacher-aides, and other staff who work directly with children at a school' so that the racial composition of staff at a given school would not indicate whether the school was intended for black or white students."
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