On the Seventh Day Lower Merion School District Loses Another Motion to Dismiss
Plainttiffs Doe rested their case today after obtainining testimony from:
Lisa Fair-Pliskin, who despite having grown up in LMT, attended Ardmore Junior High and Lower Merion Hihg, advocated for the placement of ABC House in LMHS because her synogogue sponsors it, and having just been thanked by the ABC House in January of this year for sponsoring them, did not know that the ABC House program is specifically for "childern of color" to obtain educational success. She also doesn't know why she wrote "what happened to no racial isolation?" and isn't quite sure where African-Americans live in LMT.
Gary Friedlander, resident of Penn Wynne and parent of students at Penn Wynne Elementary, also doesn't know where African-Americans live in LMT. This, despite South Ardmore sending children to that community's elementary school for thirty two years.
Ted Lorenz (not on the Board any longer) also had amnesia, and did not know where African American students live, despite them attending the same school as his children. He did not know either that 3R restored choice to LMHS zoned children. He said he thought that choice was only for LMHS walk zone students, not for all students zoned to attend LMHS.
Susan Guthrie, who also doesn't know where African American students live, can't remember memos she produced, can't remember being at meetings dismissing scenarios, can't remember questions she asked at meetings or statements she made, but is sure she didn't think about race. Or, at least she can't remember thinking about race. She did admit that the board was aware of the community’s concerns re. race. Arnold then asked her about a spreadsheet she created on Jan 12, 2009 in preparation of her public remarks that evening before the vote on 3R. This spreadsheet referenced both “Diversity” and “Ardmore” (right next to each other). She said that this just reflected her noting that these issues had come up in the process, but she didn’t see them as linked. She said that the “Ardmore” item reflected that two board members wanted a plan that didn’t split Ardmore. The judge asked, “what did you mean by Ardmore?” to which she replied, “At this point I have no idea.”
At this point Plaintiffs Doe rested their case. LMSD's attorney Judith Harris then made a very long-winded motion to dismiss, which the Judge denied before Plaintiffs' attorney could even begin to rebut. Judge Baylson reiterated what he wrote in his Memorandum and Order in Summary Judgement: This case is a perfect application of the Supreme Court's ruling in Arlington Heights vs. Metro Housing Development Corp. He must consider and weigh the 'contemporary' evidence - memos, meeting minutes, recordings, emails, etc. against the testimony provided. He explained that under Arlington heights, circumstantial evidence must play a role. He noted that the plaintiffs have “a great deal” of circumstantial evidence. However, all SB members have testified that race did not play a role in their decision. He said that this is what makes this a difficult case, and “so we’ll proceed.”
Having lost their last motion for Dismissal, this case will now go to Verdict.
LMSD presented their first witness, Dr. Claudia Lyles, currently director of curricular instruction at the Cherry Hill School District, and a former colleague of McGinley’s at Cheltenham. She had no involvement with LMSD's redistricting. Cheltenham is a smaller district, 35% minority students (25% African American, 10% Asian) with one high school so the situation is not similar. She also testified that it often does not matter how many students share your ethnicity, you can still feel racially isolated so the quantity of students doesn't really matter that much. Though, she admitted, the smaller the numbers, the greater the chance.
Testimony resumes tomorrow, during which the District is expected to complete their case. One more trial day - Monday, May 3 is scheduled, likely for closing arguments, after which the case goes to the Judge for consideration and verdict.