Federal trial begins in MNPS redistricting plan - WSMV Channel 4

Federal trial begins in MNPS redistricting plan

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

The issue of race had the Metro Nashville Public Schools system defending itself in a federal courtroom Tuesday.

Jeffrey and Frances Spurlock sued the school district over its 2008 redistricting plan. The north Nashville couple said the plan isolated African American students, including their 13-year-old daughter.

Instead of going to Bellevue Middle School, the district moved her to John Early Middle School, which was closer to their home.

The redistricting plan impacted a small portion of Metro students, but it still caught the criticism of the NAACP. At the time, there was plenty of concern it might isolate black students, especially those students attending under-performing schools, and limit family choices.

A judge granted a motion on Friday to make the case "class action" status, which allowed any family in north Nashville that found itself in a similar situation to the Spurlocks to join the lawsuit.

Attorneys for the family told the judge they want the district to reverse its redistricting change and grant them additional "relief," which is legal jargon for some sort of financial award.

"I'm glad it's finally being heard. I think he'll see through the mirage and see their true colors," Frances Spurlock said. "I don't think it's one particular person, but the board in general."

The district's attorney, Kevin Klein, told the judge that MNPS is "not hiding on this issue." He continued the district acted with a "firm commitment to educational excellence," and worked to "protect and promote educational diversity."

Tuesday, attorneys delivered opening statements and watched a recording of the full board meeting from 2008 that included the heated discussions and the board's 5-4 vote to approve a task force plan for redistricting.

Testimony is set to continue Wednesday morning in the trial, which should last about two weeks.

Mayor Karl Dean, MNPS director Dr. Jesse Register and several board members are all expected to testify.

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