Plaintiffs in desegregation case suspend negotiations with Pinellas County Schools
The plaintiffs in a Civil Rights-era desegregation lawsuit announced Monday that they are suspending informal negotiations with the Pinellas County School District.
In a letter emailed to the district, Enrique Escarraz and Roger Plata, lawyers for the plaintiffs, said that after more than a half-dozen meetings, progress has been “extremely slow and uneven.”
Instead of continuing to meet as scheduled, they are giving the school district two weeks to provide detailed plans related to black student achievement.
“We believe that negotiation meetings have not been proceeding because of the lack of this detail,” the letter said.
School Board attorney David Koperski did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
This is the second time since the case was settled 16 years ago that Escarraz and Plata have pushed the school district back to the table in the 1964 federal desegregation case, Leon W. Bradley Jr. vs. Board of Public Instruction of Pinellas County. The so-called “alternative dispute resolution” provision calls for informal negotiations between the district and the plaintiffs, followed by formal mediation and, if necessary, the appointment of a special overseer who can make recommendations to U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday.
Plata said that whether they call for a mediator depends on how the district responds to their letter.
The two sides have held more than a half-dozen meetings since August, with little progress. The talks have been punctuated by hostility, tension and, at times, a seeming inability of each side to understand the other.
In their letter, Escarraz and Plata requested that the school district provide “aspirational goals” to close the achievement gap in student achievement, student discipline, assignment to classes and programs and teacher hiring.
They also asked for a plan with “specific measurable objectives and strategies” aligned with the court orders and memorandum of understandings, as well as how and when data on those goals and objectives will be reported. And they asked that district officials identify which district administrators will be responsible for the various parts of the plan.
District officials have been holding public input meetings about updates to its 2013 plan, Bridging the Gap. In the letter, Escarraz and Plata said the proposals in the plan “do not have specific goals, or the goals extend so far in the future as to be unacceptable. It appears that little pro
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