TAMPA, Fla. – A plaintiff suing the Hillsborough County School Board says the federal EEOA (Equal Education Opportunities Act) of 1974 has been violated as the county’s school re-districting efforts allegedly continue segregating students by race or color.
The EEOA is enforceable when racial discrimination occurs against students, faculty, or staff members of elementary and secondary schools or when there are school district acts of racial segregation. The plaintiff also complains of violations of The Fair Housing Act and the “Equal Protections” clause.
Blake Warner, who grew up and until recently lived in South Tampa, believes that gerrymandering and ultimate “redlining” in school districting has racially impacted minorities in the county but protected Tampa’s wealthier white people.
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As an example, he believes that some of South Tampa’s affluent neighborhoods, such as Beach Park, Westshore Palms, and others, should be assigned to attend Jefferson High School – a C-rated black school referred to as a “low-performing school” in the lawsuit- but stated they continue to attend “A-rated” Plant High School located 30 miles away.
Plant High is known as the “white affluent school,” which he believes is manufactured to “artificially inflate” property values in South Tampa – as well as Davis Island – through segregation. He stated that in school board meetings, South Tampa white parents argued against “Proposal 3,” which would have assigned their future high school students to Jefferson High.
The disputing parents allegedly claimed they needed to “save community relations” or “maintain the fabric of the community.” But Warner believes these are just code words used to hide their real concerns of being subjected to losing the district’s “A-rated” school status and potentially having their children subjected to safety and crime issues.
Warner told The Free Press that school re-districting issues, such as in South Tampa, are more about protecting socioeconomic status than white supremacy. “You can have racial discrimination without it being about white supremacy,” he said.
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Warner’s lawsuit filed January 26 also states his son has been negatively impacted by the school districting issues, although Warner transports him to a South Tampa school where he will qualify to attend Plant High. Warner said he was outpriced from continuing to live in South Tampa and purchased a modest home in North Tampa where he lives in a minority Hispanic neighborhood.
Warner stated he is half black and half white and believes that a slower, progressive movement of racial integration through school re-districting will help minorities without creating culture shock. “I would like to see affirmative steps to head in the direction of mixing minorities and majority whites for improvement of student life,” he said.
Warner explained his position, stating that although State law requires equal funding for all schools, South Tampa parents can contribute extra money and additional school resources and supplies to their schools while parents in minority school districts cannot. There are, however, some charities and foundations throughout the county that help minority schools and students in the absence of more affluent families.
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In 2021, The Free Press reported on Warner’s lawsuit against Hillsborough County Public School Superintendent, Addison Davis over an $8,000 bill to fulfill a public records request. Warner said the records were requested to protect his disabled son against a mask mandate, and the issue was resolved in his favor. Warner also won a familial discrimination injunction against an HOA that fined him because his son was playing outside unsupervised during the COVID-19 lockdown.
While South Tampa continues to defend its current school district boundaries, minority School District 1 to the north wants to remain a segregated district to secure minority elected officials.
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