Thursday, March 20, 2008

ACLu Sues Florida School District Over Graduation Rates

From Palm Beach County:
Low graduation rates in Palm Beach County show the school district has failed its students, especially minority children, by not providing a "uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high-quality education," according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The lawsuit addresses a topic never before challenged in the courts. The ACLU and other organizations have sued school districts for not distributing resources equally, but no group has pursued legal action for dismal graduation rates.

"We're really making a more basic point," said Chris Hansen, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU. "Graduating from high school is virtually the minimum requirement for success. A large percentage of the students are being essentially written off."

The suit alleges that the district is violating students' rights to a high-quality education as outlined in the state constitution.

According to state calculations, 71.8 percent of students across the county graduated on time last school year, up from 66 percent in 2003 but slightly below the state average.

The rate is higher than five of the other six largest "urban" school districts in the state, including Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Only Hillsborough County, at 79.1 percent, had a higher rate.

But the graduation rates drop off among the county's black and Hispanic students. While more than 80 percent of white students graduated on time in the county last year, only about 55 percent of black students and 64 percent of Hispanic kids did, according to state statistics. snip

The suit calls for the school district to improve the graduation rates among students in every racial group, students who qualify for the school lunch program and English-language learners. It also calls for the school district to adopt a more-accurate method for calculating graduation rates.
A qquick legal word here, just because a suit has been filed, doesn't mean that it will keep going. I expect the school district will move to dismiss the case for lack of standing by teh plaintiffs or for failure to state a claim which can be resolved by the courts.

Gradutaion rates contain a troubling disparity between racial groups, there is no denying teh hard data. But a lawsuit is a particularly poor way of going about addressing the issue, but the ACLU has no other tactical reserve. In short they don't know how to operate any other way.

Suing the school district because some students are failing is not an issue for the courts to decide. Furthermore, how is teh court to fashion a remedy for the plaintiffs--make the school pass the students? I don't think that a court can do that if the student doesn't meet the criteria, nor do I think a judge will think it prudent for him to do so, even if it were possible?

Finally, I would assume that the school district is working hard (as it must under federal and state law) to address the issue. What is the court supposed to do, tell the school district how to do its job?

I think the ACLU is flat wrong on this and is wasting valuable court time on a suit that should be dismissed out of hand.

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