Hollow News

On April 18, Lucresia Mayorga Santamaria filed a federal civil-rights suit against the Dallas Independent School District--as well as DISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa and Preston Hollow Elementary School principal Teresa Parker--in which Santamaria alleged the school was segregating her three children. They're not named in the suit--they're referred to only as "Doe children 1-3"--but two are in the fifth grade and another's in third grade, and in the suit, Santamaria claims her kids, as well as other Hispanic students, were forced to stay in English-as-second-language classes even if they were proficient in English. The suit also claims that Anglo students--who make up about 18 percent of the Preston Hollow student body, which is almost three times the DISD average--are separated from their Hispanic and African-American schoolmates in art, music and physical education classes.

Santamaria also alleges that Preston Hollow officials circulated a brochure to prospective parents in which Hispanic students were literally left out of the picture. The lawsuit even contains an excerpt from an alleged e-mail sent out by Meg Bittner, the president of the PTA, in which she explained the mysterious absence of Latino kids: "While our demographics lean much more Hispanic, we try not to focus on that for this brochure. A big questions [sic] that neighborhood parents have is about the ethnic breakdown of our school population. Our neighbor school, being most Hispanic throws the neighborhood families off a bit...I just don't want any hurt feelings if we use one or two Hispanic kids in the shot." It doesn't say to whom this missive was sent or what it was in response to; it also doesn't say where Bittner learned her writing skills or if she's still in an ESL class.

But one thing's for sure: Bittner will probably be called to testify in the trial that got underway yesterday in federal court. Hinojosa's definitely going to testify; Parker too. Attorney David Hinojosa, who filed the suit and is with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, accused them in opening arguments of crosing the line "with their attempts to segregate white children into separate classes, with their attempts to attract white students and ultimately with their attempts to halt white flight in violation of the law."

You would never know it, though, if you read The Dallas Morning News this morning. There is not one word about this suit and trial in Dallas' Only Daily today. From the looks of it, the only reporter covering the thing was the Associated Press' Julia Glick, whose piece appears on more than a dozen Web sites--including the News'--but can be found nowhere in the paper itself, far as I could tell this morning. It's possible I missed it, buried beneath coverage of the DISD pep rally during which Superintendent Hinojosa threatened those who used their school district credit cards to buy, ya know, iPods and stuff. Maybe there'll be something tomorrow, if there's a newspaper staff left to cover the trial; after all, buyout offers go out to some 120 to 150 News'ers today, and those are always great for morale-boosting. --Robert Wilonsky