Mediation to start Tuesday in Pinellas 50-year-old desegregation case
Mediation in Pinellas County's 50-year-old desegregation case is scheduled to start Tuesday.
District officials and the lawyers for the plaintiffs in the federal case held informal negotiations for about four months, but agreed that they weren't making much progress. The meetings often have been tense, even hostile. It was Guy Burns, the lawyer in a separate but related state case, that suggested the parties go to mediation, if only to speed things along. The hope is that mediation can occur in both cases at the same time.
The mediator is John Lenderman, a retired circuit judge. Lenderman is new to the case; the parties worked with a different mediator in the past.
The lawyers for the plaintiffs, Enrique Escarraz and Roger Plata, announced in March that they planned to trigger the so-called alternative dispute resolution provision in the settlement agreement for the 1964 case, Leon W. Bradley Jr. vs. Board of Public Instruction of Pinellas County. The process calls for informal negotiations, followed by formal mediation and, if necessary, the appointment of a special overseer who can make recommendations to U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday.
The process is designed to keep the case out of court.
Escarraz and Plata presented the school district with 30 allegations in the case in June. They allege the system: isn't treating black children fairly in discipline cases; has failed to hire and retain black teachers; hasn't given black children a safe place to go to school; failed to enroll more black children in magnets and other special programs; and hasn't spent enough money to help black children close the gaps with white children in reading and math.