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Mother Sues St. Louis School Over Desegregation Law

FILE - A school bus full of children heads to school in the St. Louis area. A mother is suing the school system, claiming her son is unable to attend a city charter school because he is black.

A mother is suing the St. Louis school system claiming that her nine-year-old son is being prohibited from transferring to a city charter school because of the color of his skin.

La'Shieka White and her son live in the St. Louis suburbs.

White filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday alleging that her son, Edmund Lee — a third-grader at Gateway Science Academy in the city of St. Louis — would be unable to continue attending the school because of the family's move and because he is black.

"Imagine our shock when we found out Edmund would no longer be allowed to attend Gateway Science Academy due to state laws because he is African-American," White said in an online petition that has gathered more than 134,000 signatures.

St. Louis' decades-old desegregation law allows black students to attend schools in the suburbs, but it does not allow black students living in the surrounding county to attend city charter schools.

"African-American students who live in St. Louis County are ineligible to be enrolled at Gateway, or any charter school located in the city of St. Louis," court documents say.

The lawsuit asks for a "permanent injunction prohibiting" a transfer program based on race.

Edmund has been studying at Gateway Science Academy since kindergarten. He has a 3.79 grade-point average and above-average testing scores in language arts, math and science, the lawsuit says.

The family moved in March from a city neighborhood to a house in Maryland Heights, Missouri, part of St. Louis County, after its car was broken into multiple times and regular gunshots were heard by family members.

The defendant in the lawsuit is the Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation, a nonprofit governed by a board composed of superintendents of the participating city and county school districts.

"The VICC oversees the implementation of the metropolitan-area desegregation program, with responsibilities for facilitating transfers of city students to suburban school districts and suburban students to city magnet schools," VICC's website reads.

VICC officials sent a statement to VOA saying, "We cannot comment specifically on the lawsuit because we have not had time to study it.

"In general students must attend school in the district in which they reside. In VICC's case, we are governed by the Federal court decision and the related Settlement Agreement which was established to address long-standing school segregation issues."