A few months ago, Just Elementary School in West Tampa closed its doors. It was a sad day for the African American community of West Tampa, and many community representatives testified at school board meetings to protest the closure.
After the school closed, the Hillsborough County School District had to find new schools for the Just families. And there is an A-rated school just minutes away—Gorrie Elementary School on West De Leon Street. At Gorrie Elementary, 80% of the students are proficient in reading and math.
But none of the Just families were re-assigned to Gorrie Elementary.
Instead, many students are being bussed to schools that are further from their home. At Tampa Bay Boulevard Elementary, fewer than half of the students are reading at grade level. At Booker T. Washington Elementary, only 23% of the students are proficient in reading.
The racial statistics are disturbing. Instead of being sent to the closest school (Gorrie Elementary) where 68% of the children are white, these families were assigned to schools further from their home that primarily serve people of color. At Tampa Bay Boulevard and Washington Elementary Schools, over 90% of the students are Black and Hispanic.
By failing to reassign families to their nearest public school, the school district has violated federal civil rights law. The Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 forbids school districts from sending a minority child to a school that is not the nearest to their home, if it will increase segregation. Hillsborough County Public Schools violated this law when it failed to send Just families to high-quality Gorrie Elementary.
Here at Available To All, we are fighting for all American children to have equal access to the best public schools. Our founder Tim DeRoche wrote about the closure of Just Elementary in The 74.
Sign up below and join us in our fight for justice for the families who were affected by the closure of Just Elementary.
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Our founder Tim also wrote about issues of public school access for TIME Magazine:
Writing almost 70 years ago, Chief Justice Earl Warren issued the court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, pledging that all public schools in the U.S. must be “available to all on equal terms.” But seven decades later, that promise remains unfulfilled.