Liberty schools strive to preserve racial diversity

Liberty schools strive to preserve racial diversity

The Liberty Local School District has attracted media attention – much of which contains misrepresentations or misinterpretations – because of the stand we are taking against what we believe is becoming a trend toward segregating students. This is weakening our efforts that have taken place to promote diversity in our school district, which is part of a diversified community.

I realize I should have done a better job clarifying, on behalf of our school board, our intentions in passing this measure. We are working to circulate a chain of accurate information and have plans to meet with the Trumbull County Chapter of the NAACP on Monday for an open discussion to clarify our position.

At my recommendation, the Liberty Schools Board of Education on April 24 adopted a resolution allowing our board to rely on state law to protect our school district from overzealous open-enrollment practices. This move came after we had already, albeit unsuccessfully, tried using other means to resolve this matter – including meeting with and engaging in ongoing discussions with Girard City Schools.

The Girard City School District is accepting a large number of Liberty students through open enrollment. If this continues at its current rate, our data shows the Liberty Local School District could become a segregated school system. Our numbers already indicate racial imbalances trending in some grade levels.

The law we are citing is ORC 3313.98:

“No Board of Education may adopt a policy discouraging or prohibiting its native students from applying to enroll in the schools of an adjacent or any other district that has adopted a policy permitting such enrollment except that: (a) district may object to the enrollment of a native student in an adjacent or other district in order to maintain an appropriate racial balance. (b) the Board of Education of the district receiving funds may adopt a resolution objecting to their movement of its native students in adjacent or other districts at least 10% of its students are included in the determination of the United States Secretary of Education made under section 20 U.S.C.A.”

Liberty Local Schools meets this determination.

ORC is the letter of Ohio law governing open enrollment and that allows school choice. Just as ORC creates this system, it also stipulates a tipping mechanism in which excessive open enrollment can lead to a racial imbalance in a public school district and unfairly deplete financial resources, which serve the school community.

The law allows a school board to object to the enrollment of its students into another district under this division, any adjacent or other district shall refuse to enroll such resident students and unless tuition is paid (or accepted tuition free) for the students in accordance with section 3313.98 of the revised code.

Liberty Local Schools did not write the law. Our goal is not to punish any student who lives in our community by blocking his or her enrollment into another district. In reality and per our interpretation of Ohio Revised Code, we respect school choice and do not intend to disallow the option for a family to open enroll their child at another school district. However, we are willing to work within the structure of the law -including the provisions both statutorily and financially – as it provides to take a stand against segregation, which we see as a plausible threat to the wellbeing of our students and community.

Liberty Local Schools is one of the best examples of a diversified community – racially, ethnically, socioeconomically – with individuals willing to stand unified against division. Our school board, administrative team led by me, and our entire staff respect, love and appreciate serving all of our students regardless of their race or socioeconomic backgrounds.

Joseph Nohra, Liberty

Joseph Nohra is superintendent of the Liberty Local School District.