A public interest law firm is of counsel to a mother in Missouri who is challenging the St. Louis school’s race-based race-based transfer policy that blocks her son from attending the school of his choice because he is black. La’Shieka White is represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation against the Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation that was created to administer the St. Louis Student Transfer Program. Only students who are not African-American are eligible to transfer from St. Louis County into a school located in the City of St. Louis.
The Pacific Legal Foundation, which takes on cases involving property rights and government overreach free of charge, is arguing that the program violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“With us living in our new house, if our neighbor wanted to send their son to Gateway Science Academy, they could if they were any other race and, once I read that, I knew it was discrimination,” said White. Regarding her son, Edmund Lee, she said “How do you be a black family and explain to your child how to still treat everyone equal if he is not being treated fairly? To face something like that is terrible.”
“How could a law this blatantly unconstitutional exist?” asked PLF Principal Attorney Joshua P. Thompson. “It results from a desegregation order of the St. Louis schools that dates back to the 70s and 80s. The St. Louis schools were heavily segregated and to desegregate those schools, the school districts encouraged white kids to transfer into the city schools and black kids to transfer to the county. That policy doesn’t make any sense in Edmund’s case.”
Thompson said Edmund’s school is predominantly white. Therefore, Edmund’s presence there would improve the racial diversity if he is allowed to continue attending Gateway Science Academy.
The lawsuit, White v. Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation, was filed in federal district court in St. Louis on May 4 by Thompson. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released a statement saying that the student was barred from the school because of his change in residency, and not his race. The statement added, “Even if the family's new St. Louis County school district participated in the transfer program, the student would still not be able to transfer. This situation stems from the 1980 U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that the St. Louis City and County schools were maintaining segregated systems. In 1983, the schools reached a Desegregation Settlement Agreement allowing African-American students to transfer into primarily white suburban school districts and for non-African American students to attend St. Louis schools. The goal was to try to balance the racial makeup of the city and county schools.”
The Pacific Legal Foundation is a watchdog organization that litigates for limited government and individual rights all over the U.S. It has successfully argued seven cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.