Huntsville City Schools striving for complete equality and diversity through desegregation order

WAFF 48's Claudia Peppenhorst reporting
Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 10:14 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) -Just over 60 years ago, the first black student enrolled in an all-white school in Huntsville. Today, the work for equality continues for Huntsville City Schools as they slowly chip away at a desegregation order.

“It’s supposed to be about changing the culture and the practices of the school district so that even when the case is over, you remain unitary,” said HCS attorney Chris Pape.

Next week, members of the school board will go before a judge to achieve partial unitary status with the faculty and staff assignment factor. It is a seven part process to achieve full unitary status under the desegregation order.

“When you earn unitary status, it means that the courts supervision of the district in that particular area ends,” Pape said.

Pape said there are seven applicable factors to Huntsville City Schools including student assignment, equitable access to course offerings, extracurricular activities, faculty and staff assignment, facilities, student discipline, and transportation.

In 2020, they achieved partial unitary status for transportation.

But now, they are hoping to prove that equality is evident within their faculty and their hiring process.

“You’ll have diverse faculty at all of the schools, with diverse leadership across the district,” Pape said. “That’s the ultimate goal and that’s the thrust of our argument to the court is, look what we’ve been able to do and we’ve sustained it for a period of years.”

Christopher Gregory with the Desegregation Advisory Committee said at Huntsville City Schools, over 50% of their principals are Black and 1 out of 3 teachers are Black.

“We have a ways to go but I think this says something about the district’s commitment to ensuring that racial diversity in this district is a top priority,” Gregory said.

The status hearing for the faculty and staff unitary status is set for next week. Looking forward, Pape said he hopes to tackle the facility factor next.

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