Ardmore students seek high court review of bias

Posted: March 14, 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 students' attorney, David G.C. Arnold, filed notice of appeal Tuesday, in effect asking the nation's high court to reexamine a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in the redistricting case.

The Third Circuit 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 in Ardmore. Harriton in Rosemont 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 school district countered that many factors drove the redistricting plan.

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

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

"The district targeted their neighborhood because of its rich racial diversity," Herbert wrote, "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."

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, school district spokesman, said the district remained "very pleased" with the Third Circuit court's ruling. He had no reaction to the students' appeal to the high court.


Contact Bonnie L. Cook

at 610-313-8232 or bcook@phillynews.com.

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