Federal Judge Tosses Discrimination Lawsuit by Florida A&M Students

The 29-page ruling states that there are not enough facts to show intentional discrimination in Florida's university funding practices.
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Published on February 9, 2024
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  • In September 2022, six FAMU students sued the state of Florida for purposefully participating in the underfunding of HBCUs.
  • Now, a federal judge has dismissed the case for lack of proof of intentional discrimination or de jure segregation.
  • The judge dismissed an earlier version of the suit in June 2023 but allowed the plaintiffs to revise it.

A federal judge has dismissed the 2022 discrimination lawsuit brought by six students from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU).

The initial suit alleged that the state of Florida consistently and purposefully participated in discriminatory funding practices against historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), including FAMU, which prevented them from "... achieving parity with their traditionally White institution ('TWI') counterparts."

The plaintiffs additionally claimed that programs offered at HBCUs and duplicated at TWIs leave HBCUs like FAMU at a disadvantage.

In a 29-page ruling issued on Jan. 24, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle stated that there is not enough proof to back up the plaintiffs' assertion that Florida's university funding formula is unfair to FAMU students or "... a result of intentional racial discrimination."

Further, Hinkle stated that the students' potential class action suit does not provide any facts that duplicated programs offered at both TWIs and HBCUs are an example of "de jure segregation" or segregation mandated by law.

This is the second time Hinkle has dismissed the suit. In June, he expressed concerns that more evidence was needed to support the plaintiffs' claims and allowed them to revise it.

Lawyers for the six students filed a revision in July that contended that the state's practices violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

"At least historically, the State of Florida has had a part in perpetuating the racial discrimination that persists in society," Hinkle wrote in response. "But [the Equal Protection Clause] addresses policies and practices governing a state's colleges and universities, not discrimination in society at large."

"A state could reasonably choose to true-up financial support for universities to account for differences in private contributions, past or present," he said. "But [United States v. Fordice], Title VI, and the Fourteenth Amendment do not require a state to do so."