Hours before school board meeting, ACLU raises questions about racial segregation in Shawnee Mission’s ‘Plan B’ boundary lines

Rising Star Elementary is among the schools that will have its boundaries tweaked under the new proposals.
Rising Star Elementary is among the schools that will have its boundaries tweaked under the new proposals.

A letter delivered today to the Shawnee Mission School Board — just hours ahead of a 3 p.m. meeting where board members will consider two possible plans for redrawing elementary school boundaries for several schools west of I-35 — raises concerns about potential racial segregation that could result from one of the proposals.

American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas Chief Counsel and Legal Director Doug Bonney sent board President Sara Goodburn a note urging the board to table consideration of the proposals until it had time to fully vet the plans and ensure “that the district can avoid the disparate racial impacts that would result if the board were to approve the proposed changes.”

At issue, Bonney said, is the 9 percentage point rise in the minority population at Rising Star Elementary under the district’s “Plan B,” which was released to the public for review last Friday afternoon. Rising Star parents have also raised concerns about the new proposal’s impact on their student population.

“According to the district’s own demographic projections, Plan B — which is the plan currently under board consideration — would result in Rising Star’s student body going from 54% minority to 63% minority,” Bonney wrote. “At the same time, the demographics of other elementary schools in the plan would change by no more than 3% in terms of minority student populations. As a matter of descriptive statistics alone, the dramatic change in minority student population at Rising Star is alarming.”

Bonney also pointed to the high concentrations of black students in the elementary buildings that house district-wide special education programs at Broken Arrow and Lenexa Hills.

“We are particularly concerned about this issue because academic research has long shown that black students are significantly overrepresented in special education programs,” Bonney wrote.

It’s the second time this week the ACLU has delivered a letter to the board raising concerns about its actions. On Tuesday, Bonney wrote Goodburn to request that the board reconsider new restrictions placed on open forum comments that he says are unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

Slides from the district summarizing the demographic impact of both plans are copied at the bottom of this post. Bonney’s full letter is embedded below, or can be downloaded here.

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