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Louisville parents sue JCPS over magnet transportation cuts

A man wearing a suit sits between two women at a table covered with microphones.
Giselle Rhoden
The plaintiff's say JCPS' transportation cuts are discriminatory.

Two Louisville parents have filed a federal lawsuit against Jefferson County Public Schools, the Jefferson County Board of Education and Superintendent Marty Pollio following their decision to cut transportation to nearly all traditional and magnet schools.

In April, the Jefferson County Board of Education voted to cut transportation to most magnet and traditional schools. Now, two parents have filed a federal lawsuit against Jefferson County Public Schools, the school board and Superintendent Marty Pollio for the decision.

Following the cuts to transportation, plaintiffs Mary Bledsaw and Taryn Bell said their students will be forced to attend their “resides” schools rather than their magnet schools.

Bledsaw is representing her two sons in the lawsuit. Her older son — who the lawsuit identifies as “A.B.” — will be a junior at Male High School. The lawsuit alleges that A.B. will have to transfer to his resides school — Valley High School — or another traditional school option this school year.

Bledsaw’s younger son “J.B.” will be a freshman at Central High School.

A spokesperson with JCPS said the cuts will not affect transportation for students at Central. But in a news conference Thursday, attorney Teddy Gordon said the lawsuit is to ensure that this fall.

Taryn Bell is representing her son “N.T.” who has a speech impediment, a learning disability and a behavioral disorder. He’ll be a fifth grader at Whitney Young Elementary, a magnet school that is expected to lose almost a quarter of its students in the fall, according to a JCPS survey from last month.

Bell said N.T. will have to transfer to his resides school, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, because of the cuts.

Young Elementary has been the best school for her son, Bell said. It offers N.T. a specialized education program, and Bell said King Elementary does not offer the same program.

“With his disability and behavior disorders, it's a major change,” she said. “And for him to have to be dealing with that on top of middle school right after, it's just going to be so much on him.”

Bell said this will be a financial strain on her family. This school year, she said she’ll have to find a way to transport her son and daughter to school on time on her own.

“I’m going to be on TARC or public transportation all day,” Bell said.

Bledsaw and Bell’s children are just a few of nearly 1,000 JCPS students who plan on transferring schools next year because of the transportation cuts.

Lawsuit says transportation cuts are discriminatory

With looming transportation cuts, Gordon said JCPS will deny Black students access to an education at the magnet schools they got into.

“As always, Jefferson County Public Schools decides to do what's worse for the students,” Gordon said. “And they don't care. They don't realize how it affects individual people.”

The lawsuit alleges JCPS should be held responsible for violating Black students’ civil rights due to the transportation cuts.

Bledsaw said she is worried about not only her son’s education but other Black JCPS students.

“It was not an easy feat to get into those schools,” she said. “And that's why JCPS has choices. We have choices that we can make to help better our students. And so now you're telling us that we've done everything that we need to do to make these choices better for our students, and now there's going to be no transportation.”

A spokesperson with JCPS said the district is still reviewing the lawsuit.

The cuts are a response to a transportation plan implemented by JCPS that failed on the first day of school in August.

An audit done by a company hired by the school board in March advised against JCPS cutting magnet transportation, saying “doing so would be inequitable.”

In March, school board members claimed the transportation cuts passed the JCPS Racial Equity Analysis Protocol, or REAP. The test was created to review policies for fairness and impact on low-income students and students of color.

REAP members — however —- told LPM that the proposal failed the test, contrary to the districts’ claims.

An investigation by LPM found Black students, students of color, and low-income students missed a disproportionate amount of instruction time due to bus delays from October to November.

Giselle is LPM's breaking news reporter. Email Giselle at grhoden@lpm.org.

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