Judge dismisses racial claims in Arkansas school lawsuit

September 29, 2016 GMT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A U.S. district judge has dismissed claims made in a 2015 lawsuit that state leaders were racially motivated when they took control of the Little Rock School District and dissolved its school board.


The lawsuit was filed against Arkansas Education Commissioner Johnny Key, the Arkansas Board of Education and then-Little Rock superintendent Baker Kurrus. It challenged the January 2015 state takeover of the Little Rock district because six of its 48 schools were rated by the state as academically distressed, and the expansion of publicly funded charter schools in the district. The academically distressed status was the result of low student achievement on state math and literacy tests over a three-year period.

The plaintiffs in the suit include two of the school board members who were removed and a group of black students and their families.

Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. said “at the threshold, Plaintiffs haven’t offered enough facts showing a plausible racial motivation behind any of the challenged decisions.”

Marshall noted in his written order that “the takeover wasn’t graceful or perfect. Bureaucracies always lumber along. But the deviations Plaintiffs raise don’t make a racial motive plausible.”

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, whose staff represented the state education leaders in the lawsuit, said Wednesday that she was pleased with the dismissal of the claims against the state.

Jim Ross, one of the former school board members, said the decision was disheartening.

“The court said that we didn’t prove that they don’t care about black kids, but the outcome is black kids continue to suffer two years after this blasted takeover,” Ross said.

The lawsuit also claims that there is disparate treatment of students and inequitable conditions of the school buildings in the district are still in contention, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/2dDcqKN ).

Those claims are scheduled to be the subject of a federal court trial starting July 10.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com