SPLC Lawsuit: Education Bill Discriminates Against Children Living in Alabama’s Black Belt

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – The first day of school this year for many districts across the state is now in the books. One of the big headlines is a lawsuit filed seeking to block one of the more talked about new laws of the year.

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit saying the Alabama Accountability Act discriminates against children living in Alabama’s Black Belt.

There’s a lot of information outlined in a 40-page lawsuit filed on behalf of eight students in four Alabama counties. Richard Cohen, President of SPLC, calls the promise of the Alabama Accountability Act empty. A lawmaker who helped draft the bill before the final changes, however, disagrees.

“On one hand, it’s not surprising with the SPLC and their track record,” said State Senator Bill Holtzclaw.

Holtzclaw is not fazed by SPLC’s lawsuit.

“When they’re going to look toward opportunities, this is going to be one they are going to look toward,” added Holtzclaw.

Holtzclaw says he does not discount what the organization wants to accomplish in one area of the state, but adds things are different in North Alabama.

“I really wish the SPLC would look toward the real issue in our backyard where we have hundreds of families, that because of the federal desegregation order, are unable to exercise school of choice that is now afforded to them at the state level,” added Holtzclaw.

Cohen calls AAA’s promise of giving some students a choice an empty one.

“I read the comment from Mr. Cohen. I will tell you that to a parent, who has a school choice today in a school system that didn’t have a school choice previously, that’s not an empty promise. That’s a real promise or a real opportunity,” added Holtzclaw.

Cohen claims in some Black Belt counties, every school is failing on a certain grade level.

“I see no relevance to the federal lawsuit they filed. Again, it doesn’t surprise me. I, quite frankly, know they are going to shop for the right court to get the right answer,” added Holtzclaw.

The SPLC lawsuit claims the Alabama Accountability Act violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

Holtzclaw believes the state law is constitutional. He told WHNT NEWS 19 the law was modeled after laws in Florida and Oklahoma.

“It was proven constitutional within those states. So, from what we’ve modeled it after and what has been able to move forward to this point, I don’t see an issue with respect to the constitutionality of it,” added Holtzclaw.

Read the lawsuit by clicking here.