Please see the letter below. My favorite excerpt from this:
“However, the above figures suggest that the District’s proposed attendance boundary modifications assign some students to a school other than the one closest to their home and have the effect of concentrating minority students in some schools while limiting the number of minority students assigned to others, including 12th High School.”
U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division
Educational Opportunities Section
BY E-MAIL AND FIRST-CLASS MAIL
James E. Fagan
Prince William County Public Schools
P.O. Box 389
Manassas, VA 20108
Re: Prince William County Public Schools’ 12th High School
Dear Mr. Fagan:
I am writing regarding the planned 12th High School for Prince William County Public Schools (the “District”). As you know, our office has conducted a preliminary inquiry into the attendance boundary modifications designed to accommodate the new 12th High School, as well as the process by which the proposed attendance boundary modifications were established and the demographic changes anticipated in the District’s high schools should the proposed attendance boundaries be adopted in their current form (i.e., Administrative Recommendation v.1.2). As part of that inquiry, we have reviewed the information submitted by the District in response to our June 2, 2014 information request letter and our June 4th and July 23rd follow-up requests for information, as well as publicly available information.
Consistent with the concerns raised in our June 2, 2014 letter, preliminary analysis of the data the District has provided reveals significant disparities between the demographic profile of students living in the attendance zones from which the 12th High School will draw its student body and the demographic profile of those students actually selected for reassignment to the 12th High School. The data provided by the District indicates that approximately 80% of the students slated to attend 12th High School will be reassigned from Hylton and Osbourn Park High Schools. Although 70.1% of high school students currently living in the Hylton attendance boundary belong to a minority group, only 40.3% of the high school students being rezoned from Hylton to the 12th High School belong to a minority group. Conversely, white students represent 29.9% of all high school students living in the Hylton attendance boundary but 59.6% of the Hylton high school students set to be reassigned to 12th High School. Under the proposed 2 reassignment, the percentage of high school students living in the Hylton boundary who are minority increases from 70.1% to 74.8%.
Similar patterns exist with respect to the reassignment of students from Osbourn Park High School. For example, 51% of the high school students currently living in the Osbourn Park attendance boundary belong to a minority group, but only 35% of the high school students being rezoned from Osbourn Park to 12th High School belong to a minority group. White students, on the other hand, represent 49% of high school students living in the Osbourn Park attendance boundary but 65% of the high school students reassigned from Osbourn Park to 12th High School.
Concerns regarding these disparities are heightened by the irregular shape of the proposed Osbourn Park and 12th High School attendance boundaries. The proposed Osbourn Park boundary includes non-contiguous “islands” of students who are required to cross the 12th High School attendance boundary to attend Osbourn Park. In contrast to the students slated to be moved from Osbourn Park to 12th High School, the students excluded from the 12th High School attendance boundary are overwhelmingly minority: 77.8% of the high school students living in the westernmost (and most populous) “island” are minority, as are 66.7% of the high school students living in the easternmost “island.” Maps generated by the District indicate that students living in these areas (and others) are not being assigned to the school closest to where they live.
These preliminary findings raise significant concerns regarding the boundary proposal’s compliance with the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (“EEOA”), 20 U.S.C. § 1701 et seq., which the Department of Justice is charged with enforcing. The EEOA provides that “[n]o State shall deny equal educational opportunity to an individual on account of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, by . . . the assignment by an educational agency of a student to a school, other than the one closest to his or her place of residence within the school district in which he or she resides, if the assignment results in a greater degree of segregation of students on the basis of race, color, sex, or national origin among the schools of such agency than would result if such student were assigned to the school closest to his or her place of residence within the school district of such agency providing the appropriate grade level and type of education for such student.” 20 U.S.C. § 1703(c). However, the above figures suggest that the District’s proposed attendance boundary modifications assign some students to a school other than the one closest to their home and have the effect of concentrating minority students in some schools while limiting the number of minority students assigned to others, including 12th High School. Irregularities in the proposed Osbourn Park and 12th High School attendance boundaries, including what appear to be departures from traditional zoning principles like contiguity, may raise additional equal protection concerns.
In light of these concerns, we would like to schedule a call to discuss next steps. We understand that the district postponed making a final decision on the boundary proposal pending our review, and we appreciate your continued cooperation in this matter. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.
s/Kelly D. Gardner
Kelly D. Gardner