APS Redistricting: Lawyer Puts District On Notice

Zoning Summerhill to D.H. Stanton Elementary violates 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, residents say.

An Atlanta attorney who lives in the Summerhill community sent a letter the Atlanta Public Schools' Board of Education asking it to review the because it violates the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause.

Summerhill contends D.H. Stanton, in the Peoplestown neighborhood, is a low performing school. To be rezoned there is unfair to Summerhill when the neighborhood lobbied for and ended up being zoned to higher performing Parkside Elementary in Grant Park.

"Parents in the Summerhill neighborhood feel their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment (Equal Protection Clause) may be violated if their children are sent to D. H. Stanton Elementary," reads the April 18 letter attorney David H. Glass sent to APS board members.

The five-paragraph letter says the neighborhood wants to be rezoned to Parkside Elementary.

"The Organized Neighbors of Summerhill believe the APS Board does have their best interests at heart and in serving those interests, you will adhere to the recommendation of Superintendent Davis."

How East Atlanta Patch elementary schools rank:

School Neighborhood School's 2011 rank of 1,176 statewide
Rank change from 2010 Drew Charter East Lake 93 Up 49 spots Mary Lin Candler Park 112 Down 34 spots Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School Ormewood Park/Grant Park 119 Up 198 spots Burgess-Peterson Academy
East Atlanta
Down 45 spots
Grant Park
Up 136 spots
Wesley International Academy
Down 25 spots
Down 313 spots
Toomer Elementary
Up 102 spots
Benteen Park
Up 99 spots
Old Fourth Ward
Down 41 spots
Thomasville Heights
Thomasville Heights
Up 60 spots
East Lake**
East Lake
Down 250 spots
Capitol Gateway
Down 43 spots
D.H. Stanton
Down 106 spots

Intown Academy
Old Fourth Ward
This school opened in 2010 and is unranked

sources: Ga. Dept of Education, schooldigger.com

** slated to close at the end of 2012 school year

The 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution says states cannot enforce laws that "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Glass, who has lived in Summerhill for the past 12 years and is expecting his first child, told East Atlanta Patch the equal protection clause applies because the district is taking a majority black neighborhood and sending its children to a low perfoming school when there's a higher performing school nearby.

Under the equal protection clause, race is a protected class.

Arguably the most famous case using this clause is Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan. In that 1954 Supreme Court decision, the nation's highest court said segregated public schools violated the 14th Amendment.

"This is a predominantly black neighborhood and instead of affording them the opportunity to send them to a higher performing school, you're sending them to a school that's near bottom," Glass said.

Glass, who specializes in workmens' comp and personal injury law, was not retained by the Organized Neighbors of Summerhill. He said he simply sent the letter to "alert them that the fight is here."

E-mail requests for comment to APS board Chairman Reuben R. McDaniel III, at-large member Courtney D. English and Brenda J. Muhammad, whose district includes Peoplestown, Summerhill and Grant Park, were not immediately returned.

APS board member Cecily Harsch-Kinnane, whose district includes Lake Claire, Kirkwood and East Lake, declined comment.

An APS spokesman said he could not immediately comment because he had not yet seen the letter.

In earlier redistricting proposals, Summerhill was zoned to attend D.H. Stanton, since its school, , was placed on APS' closure list.

But Summerhill . Residents argued Stanton's academic performance, and Summerhill's own historic ties to Grant Park made Parkide their school of choice.

The neighborhood got its wish in the final plan APS Superintnendent Erroll B. Davis Jr. submitted to the board of education.

But Davis' final plan called for Stanton, which is under enrolled, along with nine other district schools.

Peoplestown rallied against the closure recommendation and when the , it removed D.H Stanton and two other schools from the final closure list.

However, that still left D.H. Stanton, which is built for 726 students, is less than 40 percent full with 230 pupils.

The district then moved Summerhill out of Parkside's zone attendance zone and back into D.H. Stanton's.

The APS Board of Education still must vote to approve the attendance zones.

In an earlier interview, Josh Murtha president of the Organized Neighbors of Summerhill, said the neighborhood's 159 children who are of elementary school age, should not have their education suffer simply because APS ' board opted to keep open an under enrolled school.

ONS has called an emergency meeting tonight at 7 p.m. at the Georgia Hill Neighborhood Center, 250 Georgia Ave. SE.

I am just saying... April 21, 2012 at 12:21 PM
The schools rankings list is a clear representation of how some of the states top performing schools are in the same neighborhoods as the lowest performing schools. Perhaps APS should add some good old collaboration to its bag of tricks???
Chris Murphy April 21, 2012 at 01:13 PM
APS became a jobs program, rather than an educational system. In order to protect those jobs, the system had to become insular and opaque. For all the faults of NCLB, APS was exposed as a system that could not educate an urban population. They've always had the resources- i.e., money- but put that into a top-heavy administration with little or no support for classroom teachers. Supt. Davis is the best thing to happen to APS- indeed, to the entire city- in a generation or more. The BOE would be wise - and it would be the first instance of that body exhibiting wisdom- to follow his lead on redistricting, and the further plans for curriculum and staffing. The BOE- and this includes all the current members- has never led. They need to get out of the way, and let Davis do his job.
Whitney Williams April 21, 2012 at 01:50 PM
It seems to me that Stanton could really use a lower population. That would give the teachers the ability to develop stronger teacher-student relationships with the children and that stable foundation in their lives could improve the school's overall functioning.
Loren Heyns April 22, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Zone both Peoplestown and Summerhill to Parkside Elementary. Quickly reopen D.H. Stanton as a public charter school with an emphasis on Caribbean-American history and languages. Grant automatic enrollment to Peoplestown families in the new Peoplestown Charter to free up room for Cabbagetown students at Parkside.
Gray Stewart April 23, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Respectfully, you've been misinformed. Cabbagetown will have three Kindergarten-age students this fall, and the small house sizes prohibit growth. We don't have enough kids to threaten Parkside's capacity.


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