WHS Parent Sues District

The mother of a student at Westwood High School has filed a civil lawsuit against the Richland School District 2 Board of Trustees and its superintendent, Dr. Katie Brochu, claiming the district created a “de-facto segregated high school system” when it redrew attendance boundaries prior to opening the new high school in Blythewood.

The suit, filed Oct. 19 in the Richland County Court of Common Pleas by “Jane Doe” on behalf of her son, “John Doe,” also claims that the board denied the plaintiff an intra-district transfer as a “Gifted and Talented” student, in violation of Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Educational Improvement Act of 1984, and the S.C. Code of Laws establishing and regulating the Gifted and Talented program.

Following the Board’s special called meeting Monday night, Board Chairman Chip Jackson said he had just received a copy of the lawsuit and that it would be forwarded to the school district’s legal department. He said he had no idea who filed it and had not read it.

The lawsuit states that John Doe has been designated a Gifted and Talented student and, prior to the opening of Westwood High School this year, was on track to attend Blythewood High School this fall. The new attendance lines, adopted by the district last December, coupled with what the suit states was the “improper application of ‘school choice’,” resulted in a segregated school system for high school students in Blythewood, with Blythewood High School majority white and Westwood majority African-American, according to documents filed with the Court.

Middle school computers for the 2021-2013 fall term showed all students living within the 29016 zip code as assigned to Blythewood High School, the lawsuit states, until at least April 16, 2012, “which was well after the ‘school choice’ deadline.” The suit alleges that the district Registrar allowed “any and all students to ‘choice into’ Blythewood high school by applying during the school choice period. However, the suit states, preference was given to siblings of students currently attending BHS, as well as to children of teachers employed by any school in the district and students that had previously attended BHS. Because of the resulting “overcrowding” at BHS, the suit claims, all transfers into the high school – even those endorsed by the Gifted and Talented statute – were denied.

The lawsuit also claims that denial of the transfer violated John Doe’s equal protection rights under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, as well as alleges that the district had no program in place to evaluate how the change in schools and peer groups would affect Gifted and Talented students.

“I’m concerned that there’s a tremendous sense of polarization in the community and that it’s having a detrimental effect on the district as evidenced by the uproar,” Jackson said regarding recent requests by parents to transfer students from Westwood back to Blythewood High School.

Jackson said he had hoped that the parents would give the new school a fair chance.

“It’s only been 60 days of school,” he said, “and we already have students wanting to transfer.”

The lawsuit asks the Court to allow for the transfer of John Doe immediately to Blythewood High School, or a school that houses his peer group. The suit also seeks costs associated with the complaint.

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