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Joint Motion for Partial Unitary Status as to Transportation

Recognizing that legal documents can be lengthy, cumbersome, and difficult to understand for non-lawyers, counsel for the Huntsville City Board of Education (“Board”) has prepared a Summary of the proposed Joint Motion for Partial Unitary Status.  The Summary explains the legal arguments and evidence that support the Motion, as well as what the Motion does and does not do. Additionally, counsel for the Board has prepared a timeline for the process moving forward. Complete versions of the Joint Motion for Partial Unitary Status, Brief in Support of the Motion, and evidentiary support may also be found below.

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Executive Summary
Scope of the Joint Motion for Partial Unitary Status as to Transportation

The Board is still in an active school desegregation case called Hereford & the United States v. Huntsville City Board of Education. To resolve its desegregation case, the Board must prove that it has eliminated the remnants of segregation to the extent practical and has complied with the Court’s desegregation orders in good faith.  To determine if the remnants of segregation have been eliminated, courts consider many different factors ranging from the assignment of students to schools to the transportation of students.  These factors are called the “Green Factors,” named for a Supreme Court case called Green v. County School Board of New Kent County, Virginia.  In the Board’s case, the Court will consider factors including student assignment; faculty and staff assignment; facilities; extracurricular activities; transportation; student discipline; and equitable access to course offerings.

When a school district can prove that it has eliminated the remnants of segregation in all relevant Green factors, a court will find that the school district has earned “Unitary Status” and the case will be dismissed.  Courts also have discretion to grant Partial Unitary Status to a school district in an individual Green factor instead of waiting until a school district has satisfied all Green factors and achieved full Unitary Status.  The Motion for Partial Unitary Status seeks a declaration of Unitary Status solely as to the Board’s transportation system. If the Court grants the Motion, the Board will not be relieved of its obligations in any other part of its Consent Order.

Legal Framework

In April of 2015, the Court entered a Consent Order that the Board has been implementing since that time.  However, the Consent Order was not the first desegregation order in the Hereford case.  The first desegregation order, dating back to September 2, 1970 (the “1970 Order”), established the District’s transportation obligations.  Those obligations are:

The transportation system shall be completely re-examined regularly by the superintendent, his staff, and the school board.  Bus routes and assignment of students to buses will be designed to ensure the transportation of all eligible pupils on a non-segregated and otherwise non-discriminatory basis.

The Consent Order did not change these obligations, but instead stated that the Board and the United States would jointly seek a declaration of Unitary Status regarding transportation.

Before the Court rules on this Joint Motion, the Court is likely to consider the Board’s compliance with the 1970 Order.  The Court is also likely to consider the following:

  • Whether the Board provides transportation on a non-discriminatory basis;
  • Whether the Board creates or maintains routes based on race;
  • Whether the Board has a non-discriminatory transportation plan that provides for bus transportation to and from school to all eligible students by routes that are based on geographical and economical concerns and not the race of the students.

It is important to understand that earning Unitary Status in transportation does not require that the Board operate a perfect system.  The Board can earn Unitary Status despite having occasionally late buses or bus drivers who make mistakes.  The Court’s analysis will likely focus more on the items in the bulleted list above than on the occasional instances of imperfections in the transportation system that have no connection to the race of student riders.

Summary of Evidence

In support of the Joint Motion, the Board and the United States have reviewed a large amount of information pertaining to the Board’s transportation system.  Based on this review, the Board has prepared a series of evidentiary exhibits in support of the Joint Motion, including:

  • The Affidavit of Scott Gillies, the Board’s Transportation Coordinator;
  • The Affidavit of Matt Sachs, the Board’s third-party demographics expert;
  • The Affidavit of Dr. George Smith, the Board’s Data Strategist; and
  • The Affidavit of Christie Finley, the Board’s Superintendent.

If you would like to review that information, please view the associated documents below.

While we encourage the community to read the Brief in Support of the Joint Motion, the affidavit testimony of the witnesses, and the other supportive documents, the following list describes each section of the brief and how the evidence supports that section:

  • Section A of the Brief: This section relies on the testimony of Scott Gillies to show that the Board regularly re-examines its transportation and bus operations as required by the 1970 Order.
  • Section B of the Brief: This section relies on the testimony of Scott Gillies to show that the Board transports eligible students on routes based on geographical and financial concerns and not the race of students.
  • Section C of the Brief: This section relies on the testimony of Scott Gillies, Matt Sachs, and Dr. George Smith to show that the Board’s student transportation system does not unfairly burden Black or White students.
  • Section D of the Brief: This section includes a written description of the United States’ review of the Board’s student transportation system.
  • Section E of the Brief: This section relies on the testimony of Scott Gillies and Christie Finley to show that the Board has acted in good faith and that it plans to continue its efforts to operate a non-discriminatory student transportation system in the future.
What This Means for Huntsville City Schools

Earning complete Unitary Status is a lengthy process that requires the commitment of our Board, schools, and community.  Because it is a hard-earned process, every step toward Unitary Status should be celebrated.  If the Court grants the Joint Motion, it would mean that the Court recognizes that the Board does not operate a racially discriminatory transportation system.  It would be recognition of the hard work of the Board, its administrators, and all the employees who strive to ensure that the Board operates a fair student transportation system. Importantly, it would also be recognition of the community’s hard work and commitment to the desegregation process.

If the Court grants the Joint Motion, the Board will still be obligated to transport Majority-to-Minority, Magnet, Advanced Placement, and After School Program students.  In fact, students will not be affected by this process. Additionally, the Court and the United States will continue to monitor all other aspects of the Consent Order including:

  • Student Assignment;
  • Faculty and Staff Assignment;
  • Equitable Access to Course Offerings;
  • Extracurricular Activities;
  • Facilities; and
  • Student Discipline.
Timeline for Unitary Status Motion
  • November 21, 2019:  Attorneys for the Board present the Motion to the Board and answer Board member questions regarding the Motion and supporting evidence.
  • November 22, 2019:  Huntsville City Schools will post, on its website, the Motion, the Brief in Support of the Motion, and the Evidentiary Exhibits.  The District will also post a short, easier to understand summary of the Motion.
  • Nov. 22 – Dec. 10:  The entire Huntsville community has the opportunity to review the documents. The community can comment on the Board’s website, the Desegregation Advisory Committee’s website, or they can attend the community meeting on December 3, 2019 at the Annie C. Merts Center.
  • December 3, 2019:  The Board will hold a public meeting to hear from community about the Motion.
  • December 10, 2019:  The Board will vote on whether to file the Motion with the Court.

If the Board authorizes the filing of the Motion at its December 10, 2019 meeting, counsel for the District and counsel for the United States will file the Motion, Brief in Support of the Motion, and supporting evidence with the Court sometime between December 11 and December 20, 2019.

Once the Motion is filed, Judge Madeline Haikala, the judge presiding over the case, will determine the schedule for any future public hearings regarding the Motion and when a decision will be made regarding whether to grant the Motion. Information regarding the schedule for any future hearings or events related to the Motion will be shared with the community by Huntsville City Schools.

Related Documents
Court Documents
Joint Motion for Partial Unitary Status as to Transportation

The Joint Motion will be filed with the Court. The purpose of the Joint Motion is to ask the Court to declare the Board unitary as to the transportation Green factor. The Joint Motion outlines the scope of the Board’s request and provides an overview of the legal standard the Court will apply.

Joint Brief in Support of the Motion for Partial Unitary Status as to Transportation

The Joint Brief will be filed with the Court. The Joint Brief contains the argument for why the Board should be declared unitary as to the transportation Green factor. The Joint Brief explains how all of the evidentiary documents support a finding that the Board is unitary in transportation.

Evidentiary Support
Evidentiary Support

The Evidentiary Support will be filed with the Court. The Evidentiary Support consists of the documents the above Joint Motion and Joint Brief rely on to prove that the Board is unitary as to the transportation Green factor.

Affidavit of Superintendent Christie Finley

The affidavit of Superintendent Christie Finley provides an overview of the Board’s good faith efforts in complying with the Board’s transportation obligations under the Consent Order.

Affidavit of Dr. George Smith

The affidavit of Dr. George Smith and supporting exhibits show that the Board’s student transportation system does not unfairly burden Black or White students.

Affidavit of Matt Sachs

The affidavit of Matt Sachs and supporting exhibits explain how the Board created much of the data that is used to support the Joint Motion and Joint Brief.

Affidavit of Scott Gillies

The affidavit of Scott Gillies and supporting exhibits provide an overview of the process for developing the information used in support of the Joint Motion and Joint Brief. The document also provides a detailed description of the Board’s transportation system including its policies and procedures.

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