School boundary plan opponents file complaint with U.S. Department of Education

03/08/2012 5:00 AM

08/06/2014 12:09 AM

Some Wichita residents who oppose a new school boundary plan have filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, saying the plan discriminates against students on the basis of race and disabilities.

The plan, which will close four elementary schools and Northeast Magnet High School, is “an implicit attack upon the inner city and its minority populations,” the complaint says.

The complaint was filed Thursday by Mary Dean, a longtime member of the Wichita NAACP; Jocelyn Goerzen, the mother of two students at Emerson Open Magnet Elementary; and Janice Bradley, a member of Occupy Wichita.

Lavonta Williams, president of the Wichita chapter of the NAACP, said she is aware of the complaint but that it was not filed on behalf of the local chapter.

The boundary plan approved by Wichita school board members Monday will close four elementaries – Bryant, Emerson, Lincoln and Mueller – and move the Northeast Magnet program to a new school at 53rd Street North and Rock Road in Bel Aire.

It also retains a patchwork of school assignments in the so-called “assigned attendance area,” from which students – mostly African-Americans – are bused to seven high schools and 10 middle schools. District officials said they need more time to gather input and develop new school boundaries for that area, bounded roughly by Murdock, 29th Street North, Hillside and Ohio.

Although the district ended its practice of busing for integration in 2008, secondary students in the AAA continue to be bused because there are no general-enrollment middle or high schools nearby.

Early drafts of the boundary proposal had students in the AAA assigned to three high schools – North, East and Northwest – but the idea was dropped after some residents voiced concerns that their children would no longer qualify for bus transportation.

The complaint alleges that retaining the AAA assignments means “the primary burden of integrating schools would be forced again on the backs of black children.”

It also alleges that closing Lincoln and Bryant elementary schools discriminates against special-education students who will be moved to other schools “which lack the upgraded facilities of their closed schools.”

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