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Why one black family is suing St. Louis over desegregation

A lawsuit filed by the mother of a St. Louis charter school student alleges that regional policies restrict which schools black children are allowed to attend.

A St. Louis mother says she is in shock after learning her son cannot attend a city charter school because he is African American.

A St. Louis charter school student is the subject of a lawsuit targeting a regional desegregation policy that may in fact be keeping black students from transferring schools.

The St. Louis area's desegregation program enacted more than 30 years ago allows black students to go to school in mostly white suburban institutes, and for suburban students to attend city charter schools. Black suburban students, however, cannot.

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Gateway Science Academy third-grader Edmund Lee has attended the school since kindergarten and previously lived in St. Louis but recently moved to Maryland Heights, around 20 miles outside the city. His mother, La'Shieka White, alleges that Edmund would not be allowed to transfer back to Gateway next year because he is black.

"We are long past the days when students can be turned away from school based on their race," Ms. White told the Associated Press. "Well, that's what I thought."

"It's like being caught in a time warp," she added.

The suit claims that rules of the St. Louis-area school superintendent's board behind the Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation (VICC) provide that "African-American students are prohibited from transferring," as they wish, highlighting the "race-based restrictions in the transfer program."

Regional schools were found to be illegally segregated in 1980 in federal court, prompting the issuance in 1983 of rules designed to "balance the racial makeup of the city and county schools."

Joshua Thompson, White's attorney, however, says the rules target blacks in St. Louis County while giving white students an opportunity to transfer as they please.

"It is outrageous that in this day and age, there will still be policies on the books that turn children away from school because of the color of their skin," Mr. Thompson said.

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The AP reports that while Gateway officials declined to respond to requests for comment, they previously said they want Edmund's presence but could not allow it under the county rules.

Thompson says the obstruction is most likely due to the neglect of old policies rather than racial preferences.

Material from The Associated Press was used for this report.


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