Ardmore students ask U.S. Supreme Court for bias review

Posted: March 13, 2012

Nine African American students from Ardmore are petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court, asking for a review of lower court findings in their bias case against the Lower Merion School District.

The student's attorney, David G.C. Arnold, filed notice of appeal this morning, in effect asking the nation's high court to reexamine a ruling by the Third Circuit of Appeals in the controversial redistricting case.

The Third Circuit Court found on Dec. 15, that a 2009 plan to assign the students to Harriton High School against their will did not violate their constitutional rights.

The pupils had hoped to walk to Lower Merion High School which is close to their homes. Harriton is a five-mile bus ride away.

The students argued in a federal lawsuit filed in May 2009 that they were singled out for reassignment based on race, but the district countered that many factors drove the redistricting plan.

A federal court judge agreed with the district, and the Third Circuit Court echoed that ruling by saying the district's action "passes constitutional muster."

In a statement released today, James Herbert, the students' spokesman, said the plaintiffs still maintain that bias was at the heart of the district's plan.

"The district targeted their neighborhood because of its rich racial diversity, and that by denying them the choice to attend their neighborhood school - a choice enjoyed by all of their surrounding neighbors - their 14th Amendment Right to Equal Protection was violated," Herbert wrote.

He added: "There is overwhelming evidence from the trial record that racial considerations loomed large in the decision making of the District's administration, consultants, and members of the sitting school board."

Doug Young, spokesman for the school district, said the district remains "very pleased" with the Third Circuit Court's ruling, but had no comment Tuesday on the students' appeal to the high court.

"If there is a need to comment at a later time, we will do so," Young said.


Contact Bonnie L. Cook at 610-313-8232 or bcook@phillynews.com.

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