Education

'Non-violent protest' halts Wake school board meeting

Posted June 15, 2010
Updated July 6, 2010

— A civil rights group staging a non-violent protest brought the Wake County school board meeting to a halt Tuesday afternoon when it took over the board's meeting room, standing together with interlocked arms and singing "We Shall Overcome."

"Today, we register our legitimate discontent … We are willing to break a lesser law and accept the punishment to protect a larger law," Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the NAACP, said. "We are here to stay."

About an hour later, Raleigh police arrested Barber, 46; Nancy Ellen Petty, 46, a pastor at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh; Timothy Buie Tyson, 50, a research scholar at Duke University; and parent Mary Dobbin Williams, 48, on second-degree trespassing charges.

The group of local clergy members were protesting the Wake County Board of Education's move away from the school system's current student assignment plan, which buses students in an effort to try to balance socio-economic diversity.

In March, the board voted to assign students based upon geography, placing children in schools closer to where they live.

Opponents fear doing so will lead to re-segregation in the school system, create pockets of poverty, result in low-performing schools and high teacher turnover. Advocates believe that with community-based schools parents will have more options for their children's schooling and opportunities to be more involved.

Police arrest four in protest of Wake school policy Police arrest four in protest of Wake school policy

"Who do you think your recent decisions benefit? Your individual students, or all of the students?" Petty asked the board.

Barber called the move an "ill-considered decision" that wipes away, in six months, what it took more than a century "of tears, sweat and blood to accomplish."

The protesters spoke for about 20 minutes before board Chairman Ron Margiotta called a recess. Barber and his group then took over the school board members' seats.

Proponents of the community-based assignment model say that parents will have more choices and more involvement in their children's schooling.

"We believe it will probably reduce the amount of segregation in Wake County," board member John Tedesco said.

Tedesco, who has stated repeatedly that diversity and community-based assignments are not opposites, said Barber was offered the opportunity to meet privately with the board to discuss his concerns.

“He told us he wanted to have his discussion on camera for media grand-standing purposes,” Tedesco said. "I think that we took every step to not have someone arrested."

“I hate that someone had to be arrested," Margiotta added. "I did not want anyone to be arrested.”

Members Keith Sutton and Carolyn Morrison, who are among the four board members who have consistently opposed ending the diversity policy, said they took no issue with the protest.

“This was their way of trying to grab their attention,” Sutton said.

“It didn't disrupt us for long, and think they were well-intended,” Morrison added.

The four arrested were later released without having to post bond.

“I had the opportunity to make a stand, and if I believe in something, it's what I should do,” Williams said. "If nothing changes, and I hope that it will, at least we tried."

295 Comments

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  • bht579 Jun 18, 10:26 a.m.

    If the good reverund really cared about kids, he would realize that its a proven fact that PARENTS participate more in the childs education when the school is nearby and not across town. And PARENTAL involvement is key to learning success. Add to that , the extra time each child wastes busing back and forth (which could be spent studying or sleeping), the costs of Busing( which could be spent better on schools), and the environmental impact of polluting buses running back and forth, and its a no-brainer. Neighborhood Schools...FOR THE CHILDREN !!!!

  • wilko Jun 16, 5:18 p.m.

    "I am afraid that is the thinking that got us where we are." - Not_So_Dumb

    If that were true we would all be content, now wouldn't we?

    I'll look over the link you sent as time allows, but there hasn't been anything discussed on this forum that is so moving as to shake me from my initial position.

    I think it stems from "convenience for the right people" and the rest be hanged. Better the inner city kids be bused to my school than to have my kid bused to theirs seems to be the underlying theme.

  • Not_So_Dumb Jun 16, 5:06 p.m.

    wilko - "I've got a good thing going and I'm not willing to let it go easily!"

    I am afraid that is the thinking that got us where we are.

  • wilko Jun 16, 4:59 p.m.

    @Not_So_Dumb
    Thanks for the link, I will look at it later tonight.

    "You said you bought a house based on good schools. Well, wasn't the whole point of the diversity program that all schools would be good? That it didn't matter where you lived? The rules aren't changing, they are just becoming the rules you played by all along!" -Not_So_Dumb

    I also said I was raised in Durham. I understand diversity in schools. That was never my primary platform in this discussion. I LIKE the magnet curriculum, student/teacher ratio, calendar, and county services MUCH better than the base school offering. The base offering is not terrible, but the magnet is a PROVEN success for what my boys need. I am not naive to believe that suddenly the base school will get all it needs to be an equivalent school over nite. I've got a good thing going and I'm not willing to let it go easily!

  • rvwest Jun 16, 4:32 p.m.

    Forcing very young children to endure a daily bus ride of two or three hours borders on child abuse. And this is what Barber and his crowd are advocating? That tells me all I need to know about the man.

  • Not_So_Dumb Jun 16, 4:16 p.m.

    Wilko - http://www.ncreportcards.org/src/

    Scroll down in the window to Wake, then pick schools. Compare magnet to non-magnet ED populations.

    You said you bought a house based on good schools. Well, wasn't the whole point of the diversity program that all schools would be good? That it didn't matter where you lived? The rules aren't changing, they are just becoming the rules you played by all along! Previously, you could (and would) be moved anywhere. There was no guarantee that your school would be local. My assignment was the 20th closest elementary school to out house.

  • Not_So_Dumb Jun 16, 4:11 p.m.

    "community schools will mean segregated schools"-wray

    That is only true if we have segregated communities. Does that no also teach our kids that racism is OK?

  • wilko Jun 16, 4:08 p.m.

    @Not_So_Dumb
    Let me say I enjoy a good discussion and respect you as a person in that we can disagree and remain civil.

    "I feel it is unfair to pay taxes for schools that exclude certain students. It has nothing to do with me. I don't think that PUBLIC schools should be allowed to turn away members of the public." -Not_So_Dumb

    Unfair? We paid taxes when we didnt have kids. We chose to look at houses in specific neighborhoods because of the schools they were districted to. We bought a house based on good schools. We got lucky and were accepted to a magnet. We played by the rules and did things the right way. NOW, NOW the game changes everything is up in the air and we might be stuck? Talk about unfair...

    "look on the DPI site. All the school reports are here."-Not_So_Dumb
    Pls help narrow down what you are specifically looking at on that site so we are comparing apples

  • Wray Jun 16, 4:01 p.m.

    The NAACP is right.
    So were the clergy that spoke.
    As INCONVENIENT as maintaining diversity is in our schools... it is best for the common good.
    No matter what is said in defense of this board majority, community schools will mean segregated schools, and segregated schools serve no other purpose than to diminish the overall quality of education and to teach our children that racism is okay.

  • Not_So_Dumb Jun 16, 3:48 p.m.

    "You feel it unfair to pay for a school you cant use. I felt it was unfair to pay school taxes when I didn't have kids. Big whoop. Things aren't equal and just in life." - wilko

    Actually, that is not how I feel. I feel it is unfair to pay taxes for schools that exclude certain students. It has nothing to do with me. I don't think that PUBLIC schools should be allowed to turn away members of the public.

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