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Third-grader can’t go to school because of his skin color (yes, in 2016)

Edmund Lee and his family were shocked to find out that the third-grader would no longer be able to attend his St. Louis charter school, Gateway Science Academy. The reasoning? Because the family was moving to a neighboring school district, and they identify as African-American.

Due to state regulations that were created decades ago, only certain county residents are offered the chance to attend a city charter school, but they must live in a district participating in transfer programs and cannot be African-American. While the new neighborhood the family is moving to does participate in a transfer program for Gateway Science Academy, because Edmund is black, he will be prevented from attending the school he loves.

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While the original state regulations were put in place to ensure a diverse school, they are now outdated and preventing all students from accessing a quality education. Edmund’s mother, La’Shieka White, started a petition with the hope of getting these regulations changed. She writes,

“These guidelines were put in place by the state and is unfair for my child who has been going to the school since kindergarten and has been excelling. Not admitting Edmund simply because he is African American is just wrong. My son loves his school, friends, and teachers. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education should not deny my son admission based on his race.”

These guidelines were originally been put in place to ensure diversity in charter schools, yet they can end up harming individual students like Edmund, who was excelling at Gateway Science Academy, according to his mother. White attributes Edmund’s academic success (he currently has a 3.83 GPA and has above-average testing scores in language arts, math and science) to the schooling he receives at the charter school.

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While desegregation was the reasoning behind the rules, due to a variety of changes and advances, they now act like a “modern Jim Crow” law, according to a petition signer who works within the charter school network that includes Edmund’s school.

With these outdated regulations, will Edmund be left behind when it comes to school success? His mother hopes the petition will stir folks into acting and changing the rules surrounding who can attend charter schools. It seems the family has the backing of the school in question as well. Janet Moak, assistant principal at Gateway Science Academy, told local news that it’s time to revisit the regulations in question and that this instance might spark a much-needed conversation.

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And a handful of teachers from the school have shown their support by signing White’s petition. Edmund’s third-grade teacher, Tiffany Luis, not only signed the petition but left Edmund and his family a note of encouragement, saying that it breaks her heart that she may not be able to see her student in the halls of the school next year.

With the support of his school and teachers behind him and a petition quickly gaining steam, one hopes that this will be the push to change the laws that are now working against the very people they were put in place to protect. Edmund deserves to continue his education at his school, and the fact that he is black shouldn’t make a difference.

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Obama and kids
Image: Official White House photo by Pete Souza/Flickr

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