Federal judge rules school board can shut down R.A. Hubbard High School

WAFF has confirmed with one of the plaintiffs in the case that the ruling will be appealed
Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 7:17 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 26, 2022 at 1:31 PM CDT
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NORTH COURTLAND, Ala. (WAFF) - The Lawrence County School Board can close R.A. Hubbard High School after a ruling from a federal judge.

The board voted 4-1 to close the school in December 2021. Supporters say Hubbard cost too much to run and too few students were enrolled at the school. But, the school board needed a federal judge’s approval because the school system is under a 56-year-old desegregation order.

According to the Decatur Daily, U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor had to decide if closing Hubbard was racially motivated or if it put a ‘disproportionate burden’ on Black students. Late Monday night, Proctor ruled the school board provided sufficient evidence that the decision was financially motivated, not racially motivated.

Judge rules R.A. Hubbard School can close
Judge rules R.A. Hubbard School can close

WAFF has confirmed with one of the plaintiffs, LaWanda Watkins that the ruling will be appealed.

“I think the judge made a quick decision on his ruling, that he didn’t fully investigate. We’re fighting this decision to appeal because we feel the best interest for our kids and we would love for our kids to stay here locally at home,” said Watkins.

R.A. Hubbard is a predominantly Black school. Current R.A. Hubbard students would be transitioned to majority-white schools, like Hatton High, East Lawrence High or East Lawrence Middle if the school closes. Students would finish out the school year at R.A. Hubbard.

District One school board member Christine Garner voted against closing Hubbard in December. She said she was “extremely disappointed but not totally surprised” by the ruling.

“I’m very much upset with that decision. I don’t think R A Hubbard needs to be closed. it’s the only high school we have in the northwest district of Lawrence County. The other schools, the closest one is probably at least 15 to 20 miles away. The other is probably 20 to 25 miles away and this is where they plan on sending our kids,” said Garner.

“This afternoon, our motion for closing R.A. Hubbard and changing attendance zones accordingly was approved,” said Superintendent Jon Bret Smith “This process and decision was difficult for everyone involved. From the beginning, the majority of people on both sides have wanted what was best for R.A. Hubbard. Everyone is to be commended for their efforts.

“From this point on, we ask that all parties work together to do what is best for students. The school system will strive to provide ample opportunities for input and help to make this process beneficial for our students.”

In addition to his ruling, Proctor also ordered the school board to work with the community to determine if it has obtained or can obtain unitary status. That means it is sufficiently desegregated and it could make decisions without federal approval.

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