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Hearne ISD Prevails in Student Transfer Trial

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A ruling is made on a school district debate over transferring students. The Hearne school district says they have been segregated against their will by the state and neighboring Mumford, and a judge agreed.

At the center of the issue is desegregating, or maintaining a state-required color balance. Hearne has contended it's illegally losing white students and money to other schools -- primarily Mumford -- and that argument has been upheld.

But to understand the issue, you have to go back to 1970, when after desegregating, the district grouped students into classes by ability. But they found that white and black students were divided by this method as well. So in the early 90s, Hearne began mixing the classes regardless of race or ability.

At that point, statistics show white students began transferring out of Hearne in large numbers. Over the last 14 years, the majority-minority makeup of Hearne ISD changed by 3,200 percent.

Statistics also show that Mumford ISD was the major recipient of Hearne transfers, with their white enrollment increasing each year Hearne's decreased. In fact, of the 500 students in Mumford in 2002-2003, only 102 resided in the city.

The United States and Hearne ISD alleged that the Texas Education Agency was providing funding for transfers from Hearne to Mumford in violation of the 1970 state desegregation ruling. After hearing the case back in January, District Court Judge William Justice ruled in favor of Hearne Thursday.

He called on the TEA to stop providing funding for transfers that would impede desegregation in Hearne. Maybe more interestingly, Justice ruled that Mumford cannot accept transfers from Hearne if it reduces desegregation in Hearne. That includes current transfers enrolled at Mumford ISD.

In a statement, Hearne superintendent David Deaver said he is pleased by the ruling, saying it confirmed his district's allegations against the TEA, the state and Mumford. He went on to say that Hearne had sought help from TEA on the issue, but to no avail, and that litigation was the only alternative.

Mumford ISD superintendent Pete Bienski would not comment in detail on the case, but said he was not surprised by the decision. He says they are in the process of preparing an appeal.