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APS plan fails Coan

Dealing with race and class in the redistricting battle

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For years the districting for Atlanta Public Schools' Grady High School cluster has been drawn along what seems to me to be racial and socioeconomic lines despite proximity or geography — almost absurdly so in some places. This can be seen from a broad view of the districting maps, but even more so in the details.

A few parents and community leaders have worked very hard with APS over the years to make sure that their predominantly white, upper-middle-class children and children like theirs do not go to Jackson High or Coan Middle with their predominantly black, lower-middle-class to lower-class student population. Their work has essentially created largely segregated schools.

This situation took an even uglier turn more than a week ago when Superintendent Erroll Davis recommended that Coan students be bused 3 miles to 5 miles out of their own neighborhoods to attend King Middle School and that Coan be used as a sixth-grade academy for Inman Middle School. His suggestions were followed up by an official recommendation from an Inman/Grady parent that the Coan facilities become the new location for Inman Middle and the Inman Middle facilities become a ninth-grade academy for Grady.

These circumstances and proposals communicated to many Edgewood and Coan parents that Coan was a school to be avoided only as long as it was predominantly attended by black, less affluent students. But once those students are removed and bussed past the school, out of their own neighborhoods, and to a school on the other side of the interstate a few miles away, then it is the most sensible, logical, and beneficial move for APS to move the largely white upper-middle-class students to Coan, who could then use the facilities without the fear of "poor" or "black" rubbing off on their children.

As a firm believer in the socialization of success I can understand where advocates of the current districting lines and recent proposals might be coming from. I think every parent should pay close attention to the kinds of people and types of media that their children are exposed to. However, I do not believe that the potential of anyone's child will be stunted because they attend a racially and economically diverse school (which more would be if they were zoned by geography and proximity instead of race and class). I believe it will make them better people and our world a better place.

I think we have an amazing opportunity right now to deal with the historic race and class divisions throughout APS and to teach our children something about what it means to be good neighbors and good people. I think this and the soul of our community are the greater issues at stake.

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