The lawsuit against Metro over allegations of racial re-segregation has taken on class-action status, with plaintiffs now including all African-American students affected by the school district’s controversial 2008 student assignment plan.
U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Sharp granted the plaintiffs’ request for class certification Friday in advance of the 3-year-old suit — now known as Spurlock et al. v. Fox — reappearing in federal court on May 1.
That certification came when Sharp denied Metro’s objection to the class-action request after Metro attorneys unsuccessfully argued plaintiffs could not adequately represent all African-Americans affected by the rezoning plan because some supported it.
Attorney Larry Woods, who launched a legal battle in 2009 by highlighting the situation of an African-American girl who was allegedly denied access to a predominantly white middle school, said the judge’s decision is key to his hopeful outcome.
“It’s a strong message to the minority community that they have a stake in the outcome of this student rezoning battle,” Woods said. “And if we win, they will be eligible to change their students’ school assignment in whatever the court ultimately rules.”
Hearings on the much-publicized case that stems from the school board’s 2008 rezoning-plan approval is set to begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Plaintiffs have argued Metro school officials “knowingly and intentionally used racial identification” to rezone African-American students away from affluent, predominantly white schools. This scenario, they contend, played out when North Nashville black students who had attended Hillwood High School, set in the affluent West Nashville area, were rezoned to Pearl-Cohn, the high school closer to their homes.
Under the plan, parents still have the option to allow their children to attend their previously zoned school.
This week, a number of Metro officials could take the stand as witnesses in the case, including Mayor Karl Dean who plaintiffs subpoenaed.
Other potential witnesses listed by the plaintiffs include: Director of Schools Jesse Register; the school district’s Alan Coverstone, Jay Steele, Chris Weber, June Keel, and Sharon Chaney; the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Ralph Schulz, Marc Hill and Debby Dale Mason; and school board members who approved the original student assignment plan.