LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that Kentucky public school students have no statutory right to attend a particular school.
The ruling goes on to say that, "student assignment within a school district in Kentucky is a matter that the legislature has committed to the sound discretion of the local school board."
The Kentucky Supreme Court said that students have no right by law to attend a particular school.
The court ruled that it's up to local school boards to determine where students in their districts go to school.
The decision comes as a serious blow to proponents of so-called "neighborhood schools." JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens said after the opinion was issued, "And it's really a decision that is for all districts in Kentucky, not Jefferson County. We were confident, but they confirmed that it is a local school board, local control decision."
Ted Gordon, the attorney for the plaintiffs' in the case, released the following statement after the ruling:
"While we will always respect the decision by the majority of the justices at the Kentucky Supreme Court, we have to wonder at the obvious attempts by JCPS to influence this decision by JCPS ever-changing student assignment plans," Gordon said. "With each new plan, JCPS has inched closer to neighborhood schools, which they realize that parents want and children need to improve the horrendous education that our children are now getting."
"All the parents in this case were courageous to take on the school system, and even though they did not win this round, they have made JCPS turn the corner, away from the outdated social experiment of busing," he continued. "Now these parents are hopeful that JCPS will start improving the education outcome for all our children."
Later Thursday, Gordon said, "We're sitting in the bastion of one of the worst public school systems there is. It's time to improve it. And is this the way you improve it, or is this the way you sell out so that we can have a black child sitting next to a white child regardless of educational outcome so everybody feels better about it?"
JCPS officials have maintained that letting students attend the school closest to their home would return the community to segregation.
The court heard arguments from both sides in April, but the issue really boils down to one thing --what does the word "enroll" mean?
Byron Leet of JCPS said nowhere does the word "enroll" also mean "attend."
"We went to three different dictionary definitions of what it means to enroll. Not a one of those definitions, whether Black's Law Dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary or the Merriam Webster Dictionary, tells us that the words enroll and attend mean the same thing," he said.
But Gordon argued that it's clear what the legislature intended: "The common sense meaning applicable here is that enroll, there's no 'in,' there's no 'at,' enroll in that school is the contemplation that these children go to school where they enroll."
School district supporters warned of dire consequences should they lose.
"The schools in Jefferson County will resegregate," said Louisville NAACP president Raoul Cunningham in April. "There's no doubt. if you go back to a neighborhood concept of schools, there's no question, the schools will resegregate."
Plaintiff Chris Fell originally filed suit in 2010 after his then first-grade daughter was not allowed to attend nearby Tully Elementary because of JCPS diversity guidelines.
Fell's daughter is now in Tulley, and he is running for the school board on a neighborhood schools platform.
He says the ruling means parents have no power: "Instead, we're going to be judged once again by the color of our skin. It has never been right, and it's never gonna be right. People need to see that this type of behavior, it needs to stop."
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