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Texas Federal Court Rules That the Principal of Preston Hollow Elementary School Intentionally Segregated Hispanic and African-American Students From White Students
However, the court concluded that the principal was not liable under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin. The court also ruled that DISD, school board members, and other DISD officials were not liable.
A Texas federal district court has ruled that the principal of a Dallas Independent School District (DISD) elementary school unconstitutionally and intentionally segregated Hispanic and African-American students from white students. However, the court concluded that the principal was not liable under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin. The court also ruled that DISD, school board members, and other DISD officials were not liable.

The suit, brought by the parent of three Hispanic students attending Preston Hollow Elementary School (PHES) and Organizacion Para El Futuro de los Estudiantes (OFE) an organization of Hispanic parents whose children attend PHES, alleged that PHES Principal Teresa Parker intentionally segregated in classroom assignments in order to prevent “white flight” from the public school by creating an all white school within the school. Specifically, they alleged, Hispanic and African-American students were assigned to English as a second language (ESL) classrooms even if they were as proficient in English as their white peers.

Addressing the equal protection claim, the court concluded that the facts evidenced intentional discrimination by demonstrating “a clear pattern of segregation, unexplainable on grounds other than race” or national origin. The court found that the “primary objective of fairly educating students was lost and substituted in its place was an effort to prevent white flight from (PHES).” It rejected the defendants’ argument that “no constitutional violation is taking place, since non-LEP minority students in ESL classes are receiving an equal educational opportunity as non-LEP Anglo students in General Education classrooms, because all classes at (PHES) follow DISD’s mandated curriculum, and the same scope and sequence” as essentially a baffling “separate but equal” argument “in this day and age.” After poring over the evidence and law in hope of not finding that the student assignments demonstrated intentional discrimination, the court concluded that “Principal Parker denied (students) equal protection of the laws as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

Regarding imposition of municipal liability on DISD, the superintendent, and school board, the district court concluded that while “there is no legal basis for finding Defendants DISD, the Board of Trustees, or Superintendent Hinojosa and Principal Parker in their respective official capacities liable … for violating the Fourteenth Amendment, for the record, the court does not believe that classroom segregation of minorities at Preston Hollow occurred in a vacuum. The court, however, does not have the requisite evidence that DISD trustees had actual or constructive knowledge of the unconstitutional practices at the school,” which is a legal prerequisite to liability. It went on to characterize the case as one “where Plaintiffs simply failed to meet the stringent test for imposing governmental liability,” not one “where DISD took affirmative steps to ensure that illegal discrimination and segregation did not take place.” Turning to the Title VI claim, the district found the individual defendants are not entities receiving federal funds and therefore could not properly be defendants, and DISD could not be held liable because the under U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit case law, “(l)iability will not be imputed to the school district absent direct involvement by the school district.” The plaintiffs had failed to produce any evidence showing DISD had any involvement, much less direct involvement, in the classroom assignments of PHES students.


Santamaria v. Dallas Independent School District opinion and order, No. 06-692 (N.D. Tex. Nov. 16, 2006)

Principal Busted For Segregating Students
Judge Rules Principal Violated Constitution

POSTED: 6:50 am PST November 17, 2006


DALLAS -- A federal judge ruled Thursday that an elementary school principal segregated students by assigning English-speaking Latino children to classes and programs separate from white children and must correct the inequities by January.

Teresa Parker, principal of Preston Hollow Elementary, was found to have violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment by creating classes and hallways that were divided based on ethnicity. However, the school district, its board and superintendent were not legally liable, Judge Sam A. Lindsay said in the ruling.

The judge ruled that Parker must integrate non-core classes and stop placing students in programs, such as English as a Second Language, based solely on their national origin or ethnicity. The changes must be made by Jan. 17, Lindsay said.

"The most important thing that's going to happen now is that they're not going to be segregated," said attorney Davis Urias, with the Mexican Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Classes will be "based on actual educational needs."

Latino parents sued the Dallas Independent School District, its board of trustees, Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and Parker in April 2006.

The plaintiffs said Hispanic children who were proficient in English and didn't need bilingual education or ESL classes were shuffled to ESL classes at Preston Hollow. Meanwhile, white children with the same language skills were placed in general education classes. Classrooms with mostly minority students were located along separate hallways from those with mostly white students, the lawsuit alleged.

Parents contended the segregation in classes led to their children feeling a sense of inferiority.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said the actions were an effort to stop white flight from the school.

The district said it didn't not discriminate against the students and complied with the law.

The suit was filed by MALDEF on behalf of three students and an organization of Hispanic parents whose children attend Preston Hollow Elementary, a school in a predominantly white neighborhood.

Parker was ordered to pay $10,000 in punitive damages and $100 on nominal damages to each of two children cited in the lawsuit.

Calls by The Associated Press to DISD were not immediately returned Thursday night. A call to the elementary school after school hours went unanswered.

The district is made up of about 6 percent white students, 63 percent Hispanic students and 30 black students.

Parents say Preston Hollow school not segregated
They deny all-white classes, defend efforts to draw affluent neighbors

08:26 AM CST on Sunday, November 19, 2006
By KENT FISCHER / The Dallas Morning News

Parents at Preston Hollow Elementary School say they're dumbstruck by a recent court ruling that declared their principal segregated students to stem white flight from the North Dallas school.

In fact, just the opposite happened, said Kaky Wakefield, vice president of the school's PTA. White parents choose Preston Hollow because they want a diverse learning environment for their children, she said.

"I've been at Preston Hollow for five years, and I've never, never, never been in an all-white classroom," she said. "It simply doesn't exist. I don't want my children growing up in a bubble."

Mrs. Wakefield's statements were echoed by three other Preston Hollow parents, all of whom said they never saw all-white classes at the school. In fact, they said, the school has made extra efforts to foster good will among the school's whites, blacks and Hispanics.

"It's sad to see all these negative, lopsided opinions" about the school, said Joe Cranshaw, whose stepdaughter is Hispanic and is in the school's gifted program. She's never been treated differently from other students, he said.

But that's not the image portrayed in a ruling last week by federal Judge Sam Lindsay. He ruled that principal Teresa Parker and the Preston Hollow PTA attempted to curb white flight from the school by "operating, at taxpayers' expense, a private school for Anglo children within a public school that was predominantly minority."

Judge Lindsay's ruling came after a Hispanic mother and an organization of Hispanic families sued the school in April. They alleged that Mrs. Parker used the district's bilingual and limited English proficiency classes to segregate students, keeping whites together in a separate wing of the building.

All minority children were funneled into those special learning classes, even if they spoke English, according to the judge's ruling. Conversely, all white students were placed into "neighborhood" classes that have little or no interaction with the rest of the school, the judge ruled.

Parents contacted Saturday said they were astounded the judge would make such a ruling. They did concede, however, that in the Preston Hollow area – where private school is the norm – many families look down on the neighborhood's public school, which is overwhelmingly Hispanic and black.

At the root of the case may be the school's efforts to change those opinions, parents said. It's a struggle the Dallas school district has waged for years: trying to lure affluent white families back to the public school district they fled after the courts ordered schools integrated in 1971.

First, forced busing carried black children to schools across town. Later, a system of magnet schools was created to entice affluent families to keep their children in Dallas' public schools. Judge Lindsay's ruling portrays Preston Hollow as a school that took it upon itself to offer white parents what they wanted.

"The court is left with the distinct impression that the primary objective of fairly educating students was lost, and substituted in its place was an effort to prevent white flight from Preston Hollow," the judge wrote.

Parents say nothing is further from the truth, although they do acknowledge trying to bring more neighborhood families to the school.

"As a parent, of course we want more of a neighborhood school," said Joe Bittner, whose wife, Meg, is the school's PTA president. "My kids ride their bikes to school three days a week. It's a great neighborhood enhancement to have a school like that."

Mr. Bittner and others say they shouldn't have to apologize, or be sued, for wanting more of their neighbors to join them.

"It's no secret that this is an affluent neighborhood," he said. "And it's great that people have chosen to commit their personal resources to the school, and we should. But everything we do there is for the benefit of all the kids," not just white students.

He said the PTA has raised more than $50,000 for the school over the last two years. Most of that money has gone to playground equipment, new fencing and library books, he said.

Parents also bristle at the fact that they often have to defend to neighbors their decision to send their children to a DISD school.

"When I tell people we attend DISD, they're like, 'Oh, good for you!' as if I'm doing some sort of public service," said Kelly Borchers, whose daughter is in kindergarten at Preston Hollow. "I feel that it's an excellent school and that my daughter is getting along with kids from other cultures."

The court's ruling ordered that segregation must be eliminated at the school by Jan. 17. Although it did not find the school district or its leaders liable for the segregation, the court did strike a blow against Mrs. Parker. Judge Lindsay found her personally liable for the placement of two Hispanic children in segregated classes, and he ordered her to pay their family $20,200 in damages.

Parents said they stood behind their principal.

"It's mind-boggling to me, the venom and animosity being hurled at Mrs. Parker," said Mrs. Wakefield, the PTA's vice president. "She's done an amazing job."

E-mail kfischer@dallasnews.com

MALDEF alleges Latino and Anglo students kept in separate classrooms in Dallas public school
August 8, 2006

DALLAS, TX - The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the nation’s leading Latino legal organization, will start the trial in its case against the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) and school officials.

WHO: David Hinojosa, MALDEF staff attorney and lead counsel in the case will be available for comment at the end of the day.

WHAT: MALDEF to commence trial in the Santamaria v. Dallas Independent School District school segregation case

WHEN: Wednesday, August 9, 2006

The trial begins Wednesday morning at 9:00 a.m. and will go the full day. It is likely to go the full day on Thursday and resume the following Monday through completion.

WHERE: U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas Dallas Division 1100 Commerce Street, Dallas, TX 75242

Founded in 1968, MALDEF, the nation’s leading Latino legal organization, promotes and protects the rights of Latinos through advocacy, litigation, community education and outreach, leadership development, and higher education scholarships.

Superintendent says budget would empower principals
DISD: Hinojosa wants more school autonomy on spending decisions

07:52 AM CDT on Friday, June 9, 2006
By KENT FISCHER / The Dallas Morning News

Dallas school Superintendent Michael Hinojosa on Thursday gave trustees a proposed budget for next year that eliminates the district's school hall monitors and trims central office staff and employee car allowances by a combined $3.2 million.

On the other side of the ledger, there's an additional $6.3 million allocated to reduce class sizes in core high school courses and $3.9 million to expand pre-kindergarten programs districtwide. There's also an additional $3 million to expand music and art programs in elementary schools.

Dr. Hinojosa said the budget reflects his belief that principals should have more autonomy in running their schools, a central component of his plan to transform the district. To that end, he wants to allocate half of the money saved on hall monitors, roughly $2 million, to schools to spend as they see fit.

"Some will hire the hall monitors back, but some will hire more teachers or social workers," Dr. Hinojosa said.

Even with that, officials cautioned that there are still uncertainties. The new state funding method is a work in progress, and the district may have to enforce a 3 percent cut across all department spending to pay for proposed pay raises for teachers and administrators.

The budget presented Thursday includes an additional $58 million for those raises and benefit increases. All told, the average district teacher should see a $4,100 raise next year, administrators said.

The end result is a $1.08 billion budget – $55 million more than for last fiscal year. The good news for taxpayers is that the state will pick up a larger share of the tab. Local tax revenues are expected to fall by $115 million, but state aid is expected to increase by $173 million.

The average district homeowner should see a $90 reduction in his or her school property tax bill next year. The new budget includes a proposed tax rate of $1.52 per $100 of assessed valuation, down from $1.69.

Trustees are to vote on the budget June 22.

Also on Thursday, Dr. Hinojosa presented a plan to reward principals with bonuses tied to student achievement.

The plan, which is to go to trustees for a vote this month, could put between $7,500 and $10,000 into the pockets of about 54 principals, based on academic performance.

Principals would get the bonuses if their students' scores rise on state and national exams. Schools would have to receive a "recognized" or "exemplary" rating from the state. Several other academic requirements also play into the bonus structure.

Board members voiced support for a proposed policy change that would ban student cellphones in elementary schools.

Currently, students can have phones at school but can't use them during classes. The policy change would keep those rules for middle and high school students and would ban the phones for students in the lowest grades.

E-mail kfischer@dallasnews.com

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