Seven Oaks students to remain Arundel judge dismisses school board's attempt at transfer to Meade

January 17, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

An Anne Arundel judge has blocked the county school board's effort to shift students in a racially mixed neighborhood from schools that serve a mostly white population to schools that are half-minority.

Circuit Judge Pamela North yesterday threw out the local board's appeal of a state school board decision that keeps children who live in the Seven Oaks community in the western part of the county out of Meade Senior High School and the schools that feed it.

L The court has no jurisdiction to hear the appeal, she ruled.

Zoe Draughon, a Seven Oaks activist, cheered when informed of North's seven-page opinion.

"We would hope that this would draw an end to this matter," Draughon said.

That is unlikely, however, because a complaint the parents filed with federal civil rights authorities and a civil complaint they filed against the school system remain unresolved.

The legal tangle centers on what the Seven Oaks parents claimed were "racist policies" by the county school board to shift their community out of mostly white schools because a little more than half of the residents are nonwhite. School officials vigorously deny that, saying the shift was planned to relieve school crowding.

In 1995, the county school board voted to move Seven Oaks children out of the crowded Arundel cluster of schools and into the Meade cluster, which serves Fort Meade, several mostly black and poor neighborhoods and other residents in the westernmost section of the county.

Seven Oaks residents appealed the board's plan to the state PTC school board, where they won last year. The local board challenged that in court.

North ruled that she had no authority to intervene in such a dispute between a state agency, the state school board; and a local agency, the local school board.

"She's wrong," P. Tyson Bennett, the school board's attorney, said yesterday.

Bennett said he had not read the opinion but expected to have it in time to discuss it with the eight-member school board when it meets Wednesday night.

The county school board could challenge North's ruling in the Court of Special Appeals.

Former school board President Joseph Foster said he was disappointed by North's decision.

"The state board has created a very difficult situation right now. They are second-guessing local boards. They are substituting their judgment, which is not their responsibility," he said. "Arundel High School is extremely overcrowded. This was part of solving that problem."

The school board is considering moving several hundred Crofton children from Arundel to South River Senior High School instead.

Pub Date: 1/17/98

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