The Tinsley voluntary transfer program resulted from a 1986 court settlement over a desegregation lawsuit. It requires the Menlo Park district to accept 24 new students every year from the Ravenswood district, which encompasses East Palo Alto and Menlo Park's Belle Haven neighborhood, according to Peter Burchyns, spokesman for the San Mateo County Office of Education.
Ravenswood students may apply to attend school in Menlo Park or a half-dozen other districts, including Palo Alto Unified, Las Lomitas, Portola Valley and Woodside. Once accepted, a Tinsley transfer student is guaranteed a place in the new district through eighth grade.
Turning away Tinsley students requires permission from a San Mateo County Superior Court judge, and is something no other district has done, said Mr. Burchyns.
Mr. Ranella said he is discussing suspending Tinsley transfers with the county superintendent of schools, and believes it would be legal. The court order says that a district does not have to add facilities or drop any element of its curriculum as a result of enrolling Tinsley students, Mr. Ranella said.
Board members said they'd like Mr. Ranella to explore the idea further, although board member Mark Box said the option raises questions not just about the district's commitment to support children from Ravenswood but also the commitment to its own students to increase diversity in the schools.
"We have a very legitimate problem," said Jeff Child, the newly selected board president. "I'd like to see where it comes back on that (Tinsley) issue."