Victory in National Civil Rights Pro Bono Case Centering on Delaware Education Reform

Taft Partner Tom McDonald served as pro bono lead counsel for all Coalition for Education Reform plaintiffs in the Coalition for Education Reform, et al. v. Indian River School District case. The national civil rights case centered around the Indian River School District’s George Washington Carver Academy, a public school in Frankford. The lawsuit alleged that this academy operated by the Indian River School District, based in Selbyville, Delaware, disproportionately placed upwards of 1,000 African American male students in a special needs program for more than a decade.

McDonald and his legal team spent 52 months on the case. Their efforts ultimately led to the consent order signing in November 2019 by federal Judge Richard G. Andrews, ending the George Washington Carver Academy program at the end of the 2019-20 school year. The consent order includes measures to create more supportive and fair learning environments for students moving forward, and appoints a special master to supervise the terms of the agreement for five years to make sure the Indian River School District doesn’t return to its discriminatory conduct/policies. The case can be cited as a significant civil rights win in the state of Delaware and is responsible for crucial systemic educational reforms in the state today.

Details about the agreement can be found in DelmarvaNow, here.

Further details about initial allegations can be found in AP News, here.

A former U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe, McDonald is a trial lawyer and litigator at Taft. He provides strategic business and government relations counsel to clients, effectively mixing his extensive legal and lobbying experience. He regularly advises corporate CEOs and chief legal officers on various government relations issues in Washington, internationally, and in major U.S. state capitals. McDonald is also a registered federal and state lobbyist before the U.S. Senate and House and has an active federal agency and Capitol Hill practice.

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