The lawsuit accuses Florida of diverting resources away from one of the state’s most prominent historically black colleges.
A group of students at the Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, often referred to as Florida A&M or FAMU, have filed a class action against the state, alleging that local political leaders have refused to provide the historically black college with the same funding as the University of Florida, a larger and predominately White school.
According to CBS News, the class action was filed in federal court in Florida.
Aside from its allegations of unequal funding, the lawsuit accuses Florida education officials of “duplicating” Florida A&M’s academic programs, purportedly trying to “siphon” enrollment from the school.
“Throughout its history and up to the present day, Florida has purposefully engaged in a pattern and practice of racial discrimination, principally through disparate funding, that has prevented HBCUs, including FAMU, from achieving parity with their traditionally White institution counterparts,” the lawsuit alleges.
In total, the student sand their attorneys estimate that Florida has withheld $1.3 billion from the school since at least the 1980s.
Barbara Hart, an attorney and principal at Grant & Eisenhofer, said that the students’ claims are part of a bigger problem.
“It’s something that’s been worked on for quite a while, but then there have also been all these recent things that have gone on with the housing issues and the athletic department issues, so it all came to a head,” Hart said.
Hart, adds the Tallahassee Democrat, is one of the lawyers representing the students, along with other counsel form Grant & Eisenhofer and attorney Joshua Dubin from New York.
Hart’s statement, says the Democrat, referred to Florida A&M’s issues with room shortages before the beginning of the fall semester, as well as alleged insect infestations, inadequate staffing, and student athletics ineligibility problems.
“The lack of fair funding over time just compounds the problem,” Hart told the Democrat over a phone call. “We did our research, it all came together, the clients felt very strongly about it and we’re moving forward.”
Plaintiff Britney Denton issued a prepared statement demanding that Florida support A&M to the same extent as its other universities.
“Our school has always made a little go a long way, but we shouldn’t have to,” Denton. “There are bright and determined people here who deserve the same level of support and quality of resources as FSU next door or any other state school in Florida. We’re proud to be here, and we want Florida to be proud to support us, and other HBCUs, equally.”
The students’ lawsuit broadly accuses Florida of supporting and upholding a discriminatory and segregated schools system.
“Throughout its history and up to the present day, Florida has purposefully engaged in a pattern and practice of racial discrimination, principally through disparate funding, that has prevented HBCUs, including FAMU, from achieving parity with their traditionally White institution (‘TWI’) counterparts,” the lawsuit says.