Bedford County Schools Closings

It alleges the board targeted the school, which has a large minority population

BedfordCounty-EducationA lawsuit filed late Monday afternoon in Bedford County Circuit Court says the school board had racial bias when it decided to close Body Camp Elementary last year.

The suit wants an injunction to prevent the full closure of the school. Attorney Mel Williams said he'd like a hearing in front of a judge later this month.

The children in the case are all black except for one. The other has a disability and is included because the suit claims moving the child from Body Camp to Moneta Elementary would violate the American with Disabilities Act. That school currently has steps that are not wheelchair accessible.

About a year ago, the board voted to close Body Camp and allowed the other elementary school on the chopping block, Moneta, to stay open.

The suit claims that board chairman Gary Hostutler was racially motivated to prevent Moneta from closing as it has fewer minority students. It states Body Camp has thirty percent minority students, while Moneta has twelve percent. Hostutler is accused of using racial overtones in meetings about the possible closures, referring to students at Body Camp as "those kinds of people." Additional context is not given about when and where Hostutler is accused of making the comment or what prompted it.

When reached at his home Monday night, the chairman said the claims are absolutely untrue and race had nothing to do with the decision making process.

"People brought 100 different reasons why it shouldn't be closed, " he said when referring to the decision making process a year ago. "[Race] had nothing to do with it."

He also said any changes to Moneta Elementary to accommodate the disabled would happen, if necessary.

He nor any other board member have been served with the lawsuit yet.

The suit also claims redistricting of students will cause overcrowding at Huddleston Elementary and will force low-income families to find transportation.

The Bedford County School Board responded with this statement:

"The Bedford County School Board and the individual members of the Board categorically deny that the decision in June of 2014 to close Body Camp Elementary School was motivated by racial bias and that the closure of the school violated any federal or state law. The decision to close Body Camp was in the overall best interests of the school system and its students. All of our special needs students will be appropriately accommodated regardless of the school they may attend. The School Board intends to vigorously defend itself against the lawsuit challenging the closure of Body Camp Elementary."

Interesting facts:

Bedford Public Schools is a public school district in Temperance, Michigan. It is the smallest school district in Monroe County in terms of area. The district includes all of Bedford Township and a very small portion of Whiteford Township. Bedford school district...

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