MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - There were big votes in favor of Shelby County suburban schools. Big votes. Great news, says Shelby County Commission Chairman Sidney Chism. But all of those votes aren’t stopping him and others on the commission from fighting against the municipal school law. “To say that we’re trying to block them from their schools,” he says, “…that’s not true. We’re trying to make sure the constitutionality is what it should be, and we abide by that.”
If the law can be used by more than one county in Tennessee, it is constitutional. If just one, then it’s unconstitutional. If it is ruled constitutional, Chism says he wants to see evidence that these municipal schools will treat all races of students equally. “My suburbanite commissioners might say they have diverse schools,” he says. “The proof is in the pudding. It’s got to be proven that’s the case.”
Now one guy who is in a bit of an uncomfortable situation is Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, who represents all of Shelby County. Not just Memphis, not just the suburbs, but all of Shelby County. “We have known from the very beginning of this discussion about merging school systems that there were going to be a lot of legal questions that had to be answered,” he said.
Obviously, the mayor says, the constitutionality question has to be answered. Mayor Luttrell however says the racial issue is one that has no place in the municipal schools fight because he says nobody has been able to convince him, or even show him that race has anything to do with the municipal school law. “I think we need to stay focused on the constitutional issues,” he said. “We also need to focus on the interpretation of the law, and move forward to get clarity on issues we legitimately need some clarity about.”
The issue of the bills constitutionality will be argued in Federal Court in Memphis on September 4th. Judge Samuel Mays has already told both sides that if he finds the law unconstitutional, he will throw the results of the referendum vote out.