April 7, 2017

Oral argument in Edmund's challenge to discriminatory St. Louis policy

By Wen Fa Attorney

On Wednesday, my colleague Joshua Thompson argued on behalf of our client Edmund Lee, Jr., as Edmund fights to end discrimination in St. Louis. The Eighth Circuit panel (Judges Beam, Benton, and Colloton) were sympathetic to our argument that a policy which forbids black students in St. Louis county from attending the same schools as their white neighbors discriminates on the basis of race. As Judge Colloton asked defendant VICC’s counsel when VICC’s counsel attempted to justify VICC’s race-based transfer program, “so VICC does want to discriminate on race?!”

The judges also discussed whether Edmund had standing to sue. In other words, whether Edmund has a personal stake in the outcome of litigation. The answer to that question is “yes.” VICC administers the race-based policy with respect to magnet schools, thus depriving Edmund of the same opportunity to go to those magnet schools as his white neighbors. In addition, state law adopts VICC’s policy with respect to charter school admissions. Thus, Edmund’s white neighbors may attend Gateway Science Academy (a charter school) because they are eligible to transfer to a magnet school. Edmund may not attend because he is ineligible to transfer.

You can listen to the oral argument here.


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E.L. v. Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation

As part of a decades-old desegregation lawsuit settlement in St. Louis, Missouri, the Voluntary Inderdistrict Choice Corporation (VICC) enacted a policy for city and county schools that prohibits African-American students who live in the county from transferring into magnet and charter schools within the St. Louis city limits. White students may transfer to these schools. African-American third grader Edmund Lee happily attended a charter school in the city and wanted to continue when his family moved out into the county. The policy prohibited his transfer because of his race. PLF represents Edmund and his mother, La’Shieka White, in a lawsuit challenging the policy as violating the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

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