Archive for Tuesday, September 20, 1994


September 20, 1994


A draft policy concerning racial equity in Lawrence schools already is drawing fire and will be scrutinized and revised in coming months.

Minority students would have the option of transferring to a school with a small minority population if a draft policy presented to the Lawrence school board Monday were adopted.

The policy also would trigger boundary changes or other remedies when a school's minority population percentage exceeds the district average by 20 percent for two consecutive years.

The district uses federal reporting guidelines of racial minorities. The federal form delineates race this way: white, not of Hispanic origin; black, not of Hispanic origin; Hispanic; Asian or Pacific Islander; American Indian or Alaskan native. A racial minority is anyone not the first category -- white, not of Hispanic origin.

What the 20 percent figure means for the district is this: minorities at East Heights and New York schools would be given "priority status" if they wanted to transfer to Quail Run or Deerfield, for example. White students would be given the same priority if they wanted to transfer to East Heights or New York.

East Heights and New York have minority concentrations 32 percent higher than the district average, according to 1993 enrollment numbers. Hillcrest School is the only other school within 10 percent of the policy's threshold.

"What if a school has no minority students?" board member Tom Murray asked.

"This doesn't address that," Supt. Al Azinger said.

That the policy approaches equity from one direction -- when there are a lot of minority students, and not when there are few -- made some board members uncomfortable.

Susan Wolfe-Shirk, a parent who said she would take the policy to the Area Council of PTAs and PTOs for discussion, was livid. She said the policy put the onus on children to decide whether they wanted to transfer.

"I think that's just absurd," she said.

She said an equity policy should focus on socio-economic levels rather than race. If race must be the issue, she said, the policy should also affect schools with few or no minorities.

"It should go both ways. If it's not right for a school to have 50 percent, it's also not right to have 0 percent," she said.

The board sent the policy to the district's 21-member Equity Council. The council plans to appoint a separate task force that will examine the policy and hold public hearings. A recommendation should be before the board in January.

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