Kids From “Across The Tracks” Fight To Attend HP Schools

The Dallas North Tollway runs where railroad tracks once lay. For some residents of Highland Park, the Tollway is still the tracks, and they’re on the wrong side. Eleven streets spill over the west side of the tollway in an area known as Highland Park West, or the Ninth Installment. Its residents pay Highland Park taxes and enjoy that city’s services. They are Parkies in every way but one: their children attend Dallas schools. Two years ago Sally and Steve Johnson and Lynn Cooley set about organizing their neighborhood to change alt that. Now, along with neighbors Max and Donna Buja, they have filed a class-action lawsuit in Judge Robert W. Porter’s federal district court.

When Highland Park West was developed in the late Thirties, it was assigned to the DISD because of a state law that mandated that children could not be required to cross railroad tracks to go to school. For decades, the citizens of the Ninth routinely transferred their children into the nearby Highland Park schools. In 1971, when Federal Judge Wil-liam Wayne Justice imposed strict limits on interdistrict transfers, the residents of the Ninth went to the state courts for transfer ap-proval in the 1972-73 academic year. An angry Judge Justice soon halted this procedure. However, attorney Craig Brinker, who represents the HP West parents, argues that the federal courts never ruled on the merits of whether it was legal for the Ninth to transfer. He is trying to present that case in federal court.

In November of 1986, Brinker sent thirty-five transfer requests to the HPISD board. After a series of delays, the HPISD board moved in January 1987 not to act on the transfers. The delays and the absence of debate infuriated the Ninth crowd, who had been forced to search for the meeting after it was changed from the previous site. Citing denial of due process by the HPISD and the need to stabilize their neighborhood, Cooley, the Johnsons, and the Bujas went to court,

The waters have been muddied by multiple legal actions. Attorney Ed Cloutman has moved to consolidate a fifteen-year-old suit (Tasby v. DISD, which has caused the court to monitor DISD desegregation) with Brinker’s case. That led to the case being moved to the court of Federal Judge Barefoot Sanders, who has never been known for sympathy with white flight from the DISD. The HPISD has filed for dismissal.

The HP West parents are frustrated, but they don’t want to stir up the HPISD desegregation issue, which has been quiet since the mid-Seventies. “We can terminate this suit at any time if it gets out of hand, sighs Donna Buja.

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