Federal judge issues opinion in Huntsville school desegregation case

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – There’s been a major development in Huntsville’s decades-old school desegregation case.  Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala issued an opinion in favor of the proposed consent order between Huntsville City Schools and the Department of Justice.

This was not the official decree; that should come any day, according to Superintendent Casey Wardynski.  However, this allows the school system to move forward with its blueprint to get out from under more than 50 years of federal oversight.

Administrators with Huntsville City Schools held a news conference to comment on the judge’s opinion — read more.

Judge Haikala’s memorandum opinion called the proposed consent order “an excellent vehicle to help the district advance towards a ‘nonracial system of public education’ that will eliminate the effects of the former segregated system and allow the district to return to local control.”

“Based upon its review of the parties’ proposed consent order and the evidence that the parties have provided relating to their proposal, the Court finds that the consent order is an excellent vehicle to help the district advance towards a ‘nonracial system of public education’ that will eliminate the effects of the former segregated system and allow the district to return to local control,” Haikala said.

Click here to read the judge’s opinion, issued April 21, 2015.

The judge sent Huntsville City Schools and the U.S. Department of Justice to mediation last year, and both sides met for several months. As a result of that mediation, they presented a Proposed Consent Agreement to the community, gathered feedback, and then presented it to the court.

In March, Judge Haikala heard testimony from the school system and DOJ during a two-day court proceeding. This included testimony from school administrators and court-appointed experts who gave input on the agreement in several areas.

Members of the community also gave input.  Some approve of the proposal but others don’t. Some brought up concerns about zone line changes, while others said the focus on magnet schools would hurt the quality of programs at traditional schools. Some people said the plan needs more research and consideration before it is put in place.

The agreement calls for many things, including school zone line changes, new approaches to student discipline, and more notification for parents about magnet schools and minority to majority transfers. These changes would take effect in the next school year, 2015-16.

Here’s another way to check where your address falls in the school rezoning plan. Check schoolzonelocator.com.

WHNT News 19 will cover many angles of the ruling today. We’ll continue to post developments on WHNT.com and have the latest in our newscasts this evening.

Do you have a comment or concern about the ruling? Email the WHNT News 19 Team.

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