Wake schools diversity-policy supporters rally in Raleigh

Posted July 20, 2010
Updated July 21, 2010

— About 1,000 people took to downtown Raleigh's streets Tuesday morning to protest the way students will be assigned to Wake County schools under a controversial policy opponents fear will resegregate schools.

The state NAACP and African Methodist Episcopal Zion Churches of the Eastern District, which was holding a conference in Raleigh, led the protest against the Wake County Board of Education’s planned change to student assignment policy that critics believe will lead to re-segregated schools.

Protesters marched from the Raleigh Convention Center to an intersection in front of the State Capitol building. Five protesters collapsed due to heat, amid temperatures around 90 degrees, and two were transported to WakeMed.

The crowd carried signs saying, "Segregate equals hate" and "History is not a mystery. Separate is always unequal," and shouted chants, such as "2, 4, 6, 8 – they can't make us segregate – it's stupid!"

Stars of the protest were four people arrested on trespassing charges for what they termed a "non-violent protest" at a June 15 school board meeting – State NAACP President Rev. William Barber; Nancy Ellen Petty, 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.

Speakers quoted Martin Luther King Jr., recalled the days of segregated water fountains and likened the current situation to the landmark Brown v. Board of Education battle. Rally speeches Rally for Wake schools diversity (full rally)

"Too many prayers were prayed," Barber said. "Too many lives were sacrificed. Too much blood was shed. Too many tears were shed. We can't turn back now."

The first speakers were four current and former Wake County high school students.

"Diversity is not a policy of convenience. It is a policy of necessity," George Ramsey, former student body president of Enloe High School, said.

Barber and other speakers urged participants to next gather at Pullen Memorial Baptist for a prayer vigil, then attend an afternoon meeting of the Wake County Board of Education.

"It is time for the people of Wake County to speak with one voice and to tell our elected leaders, conservative and liberal, that we must keep walking forward," Petty said.

"We have a school board that's set in its own ways. It's not really interested in the people who put them there," protester Joyce Fennell said.

Opponents of the policy change say that moving away from the decade-long policy of busing students will segregate schools and create pockets of poverty. Changing the policy, they believe, will result in basically two school systems – one for the haves and one for the have-nots. That, they say, would violate every student's constitutional right to an equal education. State NAACP president speaks at education rally Barber speaks at protest (full speech)

"We believe deep in our hearts that every child has a right to a high-quality, constitutional education," Barber said. "If they were serious about student achievement, they would leave diversity alone."

"This is not even about neighborhood schools," he continued, saying that supporters of neighborhood schools want schools "where the price of admission is the price of a big mortgage" and where "their children will only mix with the children of their posh neighborhood."

Donna Williams, president of the Northern Wake Republican Club, said that re-segregation has nothing to with changes to student assignment policy.

"Race, segregation has absolutely nothing to do with what is in my heart and mind, and I don't believe that has anything to do with what's in the school board's mind," Williams said.

Supporters of the school board's decision to move to a community-based assignment model say it would place students in schools closer to where they live. Advocates for the policy say it not only gives parents more choices for where their children go to school but that it also will allow more parents to be involved in their education.

The school board majority says the existing system doesn't foster student achievement and that the change is needed.

"In my opinion, the voters spoke loud and clear last November at the polls, and the majority of people voted in this new school board," Williams said. "In America, that's the way we work."

The school system currently bases student assignment on the number of students in a school who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, which are federally subsidized and depend on family income.

The goal is to keep that percentage below 40 percent, but proponents of the new assignment policy point to studies that say the policy in place now has actually increased the number of schools with high percentages of students receiving free and reduced lunches.


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  • wildcat Jul 22, 2010

    Just stop the busing in its entirety -


  • soyousay Jul 21, 2010

    The counter demonstration only had a few people...
    ..that becuase they were on golow with nondeplumes (..that would be fake names) rather than taking a public stance about their core beliefs

  • demo7691 Jul 21, 2010

    probably 500 plus out of the 1000 dont live or vote in wake county

  • demo7691 Jul 21, 2010

    Hey if you want to bus your kids accross the county you pay for it out of your family money no mine.. Taxpayers already pay too much waste

  • LEX Jul 21, 2010

    I am single and my concern about this is that of additional tax costs just to achieve this. How is this board going to avoid busing all together? THEY CAN'T! Children are still going to be bused from their neighborhoods at a distance. All neighborhoods do not accommodate all grade levels because schools have been changed. This is going to costs everyone additonal tax revenue. DO YOU HAVE MORE MONEY TO SPEND ON THIS? I DON'T! I don't want to see my tax dollars going down the drain because of a group of 4 individuals personal agenda's. Wake up people your power was in your vote and it still is! LISTEN TO WHAT THESE CANDIDATES ARE SAYING! THIS IS GOING TO BE A L-O-N-G SCHOOL BOARD TERM AND EVERYONE INCLUDING CHILDREN WITH THE EXCEPTION OF A SELECT FEW IS GOING TO BE MISERABLE AND FRUSTRATED BECAUSE OF HOT-HEADS LIKE THE MIGHTY NEW 4. PAY ATTENTION, and PARTICIPATE. The last time I heard the United States of America allowed free speech. When did local government property become private pr

  • Tax Man Jul 21, 2010

    Just stop the busing in its entirety - use the money saved to provide good teachers to those kids who need the extra help, regardless of race or economic background. All kids should be treated equally - but dump the busing! Neighborhood schools should allow for more kids to walk or ride their bikes to school saving everyone lots of money.

  • blackdog Jul 21, 2010

    The counter demonstration only had a few people...

  • amyc74 Jul 21, 2010

    "Many commentors here, seem to be thinking that our students are "bussed all over the county", when in fact, most students spend no more than 20 minutes on a bus, more than half spend only 5 minutes."

    Are you kidding me? My friends kids were bussed from Garner to Apex to "create diversity". Thats not 5 minutes. Gimme a break!

  • ech Jul 21, 2010

    While busing school kids all over Wake County to make sure the schools were Diverse. There were a lot of people that did not agree with the School Board then . Yet they did not show up at every School Board Meeting and protest and disrupt and get put in jail. They got out and got there people to the poles and voted out who they didn't agree with and voted in who they did agree with. Let the other group not get there way and now you have hoodlums in the streets disrupting the duties of the elected officials..

    My answer to all the people who don not agree with the new Board Member’s Policies. THIS IS A DEMOCRACY. QUIETLY GET TO THE POLES AND VOTE WHO YOU SEE WITH YOUR IDEAS INTO OFFICE. THIS IS NOT EAST LA.

  • miketroll3572 Jul 21, 2010

    It seems this Reverend with the NAACP and his rallies are only gonna make relations worse.

    And thats exactly what he is after, that is the only way his job is secure. Its a shame that some people don't understand that!