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Judge: Mostly White Southern City May Secede From School District Despite Racial Motive

A federal judge’s ruling this week that allows a predominantly white Alabama city to separate from its more diverse school district is stoking new debate about the fate of desegregation initiatives after decades of efforts to promote racial balance in public education.

Judge Madeline Haikala of the U.S. District Court in Birmingham ruled that the city of Gardendale’s effort to break away was motivated by race and sent messages of racial inferiority and exclusion that “assail the dignity of black schoolchildren.”

She also found that Gardendale failed to meet its legal burden to prove that its separation would not hinder desegregation in Jefferson County, which has been struggling to integrate its schools since black parents first sued for an equal education for their children in the 1960s.