Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Magnet Assignments Altered School Lottery System No Longer Race-Based

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Magnet Assignments Altered School Lottery System No Longer Race-Based

Article excerpt

The Duval County school system has redesigned the student assignment process for magnet schools to allow for more chances for siblings to be at the same school.

This spring, school officials plan to use an altered lottery system to assign students to different magnets. The lottery will no longer use race as a factor, but it will offer extra leverage for students who meet special criteria, such as living near the school or having a sibling in the same program.

Magnets were introduced to the school system in 1991 as a desegregative tool to entice parents to send their children from predominantly single-race neighborhoods to schools in other areas. Duval has about 75 magnet schools, offering specialized programs in fields such as the arts, medicine and technology.

Magnets used to set aside openings for black and white children to help the school system comply with a federal court order to desegregate.

But in May, a federal judge lifted the order, ruling that the school system was free of the vestiges of past discrimination. The Jacksonville branch of the NAACP has appealed the ruling.

Because of the ruling, the school system ended its use of race-based set-asides.

Under new policy, race may be considered only as a last resort at schools that are at risk of becoming predominantly one race, Jacksonville General Counsel Rick Mullaney said.

The school system has not decided at what point a school will be determined as resegregating, said Sally Hague, director of magnet programs.

"We have worked so long to bring the racial balance that we have not really started worrying about a change," Hague said.

In handing out assignments, highest priority will be given to students who live in the attendance area of the magnet school, Hague said.

The second priority is for students who are now enrolled in a magnet program, are continuing with the program at the next school level and qualify for sibling preference. …

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