ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – A St. Louis mother is in shock after learning her son’s skin color will keep him from attending the school of his choice. Edmund Lee is an African-American 3rd grader at Gateway Science Academy, a charter school in south St. Louis. His family is moving to St. Louis County this year.
Certain rules in place allow some county residents the opportunity to attend a city charter school, but they must live in a district participating in transfer programs, and can not be an African-American.
“When I read the guidelines I was in shock,” said La’Shieka White, Edmund’s mother. “I was crying.”
School officials say their hands are tied because of regulations created decades ago as part of a desegregation settlement. Leaders at Gateway Science Academy believe it’s time to revisit those rules.
“If this helps us start a conversation about maybe some things that could be different with the law, then that is as good thing,” said Assistant Principal Janet Moak.
White launched a petition asking lawmakers to take notice of her situation.
She’s also heard from parents of white students unable to participate in transfer programs for African-Americans.
“I don’t want it to be just about an African-American boy,” said White. “I want it to be about all children.”
Some staff members at Gateway Science Academy have signed White’s petition.
“To not see his face in the halls next year would be extremely sad,” said Tiffany Luis,” Edmund’s 3rd grade teacher. “The family is saying they want to stay. I don’t understand why they can’t.”
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released the following statement on this case:
“The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) would like to clarify the situation involving an African American Gateway Science Academy student denied transfer from St. Louis County to the Gateway charter school. This unfortunate situation is not due to state law or state regulations. It is a result of the student’s change in residency from St. Louis City to a school district in St. Louis County.
“Even if the family’s new St. Louis County school district participated in the transfer program, the student would still not be able to transfer. This situation stems from the 1980 U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that the St. Louis City and County schools were maintaining segregated systems. In 1983, the schools reached a Desegregation Settlement Agreement allowing African American students to transfer into primarily white suburban school districts and for non-African American students to attend St. Louis schools. The goal was to try to balance the racial makeup of the city and county schools.
“There are no state laws or DESE regulations specifically preventing African American students from transferring schools.”