LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit that alleged racial discrimination by the Little Rock School District not providing adequate programs and school buildings to black students.
The decision was made days before the trial started on Wednesday. Attorneys for the school district, the state, and a group of black families all agreed to the settlement.
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported that State Representative John Walker and Assistant Attorney General Patrick Hollingsworth informed U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall of the settlement at the end of a meeting in another case.
Attorneys for the black families argued that the district "allocated" better educational programs and facilities to "disproportionately white student populations" in an effort to "recruit and retain white students."
According to the settlement, the LRSD will pay $100,000 for the attorney fees of the plaintiffs and redesign attendance zones for high schools in the district by 2020. The school district will also work to improve buildings at Henderson and McClellan schools.
A moratorium on new construction projects was also reached during the settlement. The moratorium will be in effect until the Cloverdale Middle School building is replaced and a new high school in built in southwest Little Rock.
But on Monday, LRSD Superintendent Michael Poore started the press conference claiming that most of what got settled in this lawsuit involved things the district was already working on.
“Some of the major renovations we are looking at involve replacing roofs, window projects, flooring, security increases with alarms and cameras, and different things like that,” said Kelsey Bailey, Chief Financial Officer for the school district.
Bailey said the district garnered around $93 million dollars in second lien bonds to help cover some expenses.
“Families and parents depend on us to make sure their kids are in an environment that is safe, warm, and dry and we want to maintain that environment,” he said.
Another major part of the settlement involved the need to better promote options for magnet schools, online opportunities, and advanced placement course offerings. That’s why the district is planning extensive marketing campaigns and information fairs to better educate families on those options.
“We plan to bring back the magnet market opportunity where we hope to be in the mall in the central part of the city sharing all the magnet options of this great district,” said Poore.
Poore also wanted to be clear he didn't see the settlement as a bad thing. He said it showed a willingness on both sides to find the best solutions for students.
“I think the settlement of the lawsuit is something we can look towards and say this is a positive thing for all involved,” he said.
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