Blytheville Superintendent responds to letter from state

Blytheville Superintendent responds to letter from state

BLYTHEVILLE, AR (KAIT) - The Blytheville superintendent will hand deliver a response to the Arkansas Department of Education Friday.

The department sent a compliance letter asking the district to answer seven questions.

The questions asked what the district will do to get full unitary status and be released from court supervision and desegregation obligations.

Superintendent Richard Atwill's response to the letter is that his district has been operating in unitary status for over 30 years.

"Unitary means no matter where you look the population mix is the same," Atwill said.

According to Atwill, the district has been unitary since a desegregation court order after "Franklin, et al. vs. Board of Education of the Blytheville School District No. 5, et al."

This letter from the Arkansas Department of Education comes after the district sent documentation of the desegregation order. This documentation was meant to be proof the district could not legally participate in school choice.

The state amended the original school choice law this year to not allow school districts to opt out of school choice.

The amended law instead states that districts are not allowed to grant legal transfers if they have ever been under a desegregation-related court order.

"We want to compete like everyone else; we don't have a problem with school choice," Atwill said. "There are laws like 6.18.317, which is Arkansas code, that say if you have ever been under a desegregation order you cannot allow a legal transfer of students."

Blytheville School District is not the only district in Arkansas that sent in a letter with previous court ordered desegregation documents.

According to the department's website, 17 other schools provided that documentation.

Atwill said he just wants to explain how the district is unitary so they can be competitive with other schools in the area.

"It is a minefield of laws and we just want somebody to say you are unitary, go play," Atwill said.

Atwill plans to deliver a stack of documentation Friday proving the district has been operating under unitary status for years.

He also told Region 8 News once the law allows Blytheville to participate in school choice they will.

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