ST. LOUIS, – A St. Louis mother is fighting for change after learning her son cannot return to his school next year because he’s African-American.
“It’s heartbreaking. It really is,” La’Shieka White told NewsChannel 5.
White’s son, Edmund Lee, is currently in the third grade at Gateway Science Academy on the city’s south side.
It is a charter school the 9-year-old has cherished since he was in kindergarten. He is known around the building for his stellar academics, performance and overall bubbly personality.
“The first reason I love this school is because I make friends,” Lee said.
The family recently decided for personal reasons to buy a house and move from the city to St. Louis County.
They wanted to keep Lee at the school, but something surprising was discovered during the re-enrollment process.
“I think it has been overlooked. I think that’s why people may be shocked to hear it’s happening in 2016,” said Assistant Principal Janet Moak.
Lee will not be able to return to Gateway in the fall because of his skin color.
“It’s frustrating because as a parent, this is my baby," White said. "And the determining factor of him going to school should be his race.”
“I feel sad because I like staying where I am at and going here,” Lee said.
The issue comes down to a longstanding federal appeals settlement dealing with desegregation from more than 30 years ago.
In part, it says African-American students living in St. Louis County cannot attend schools in St. Louis city.
“I think the intent was good. They were trying to spread out the diversity,” Moak said.
At the time, the idea was to balance out the racial makeup of area schools by allowing white students from the county to attend city schools and black students from the city to attend county schools.
But now, Lee’s family would like to see more exceptions to the rule or the rule tossed out.
“This is his family here. To take a kid from his family is just not right. I never wanted this to be a black and white issue. I want it to be change for all children,” White said.
And if you ask Lee, he has a pretty strong message for decision makers at all levels of government.
“Sometimes when government makes laws, sometimes they don’t think about the kinds of laws they’re making for people like me," he said. "I just don’t want to feel left out because of how my race is.”
The family has established an online petition that has garnered nearly 50,000 signatures of support from around the world.
Missouri education officials told NewsChannel 5 that if anything is going to change, it will have to be at the federal level.
They said Lee could stay at his current school if the family chose not to relocate.