Raleigh, N.C. — School district leaders in Wake County are turning over hundreds of documents to federal investigators in response to a charge that a controversial new student assignment policy will create unequal, high-poverty schools, but some requested data was missing.
The Office for Civil Rights asked the school board to submit data showing how many students were assigned to balance diversity in the 2007 and 2008 school years, but school leaders admitted they never kept records of their busing program.
School board attorney Ann Majestic said in a response to the document request filed March 3 that the data simply isn't available.
"WCPSS does not record board approval or rejection of individual node assignments based on whether they were approved for SES-diversity purposes," Majestic said.
School board member John Tedesco said the lack of data on why students were bused may make it difficult to determine how well the diversity policy worked.
Wake's SES, or socioeconomic status, diversity policy used free and reduced lunch school data as an indicator to balance student diversity in schools.
But e-mail and letter exchanges recently obtained by WRAL News between school leaders and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture in 2009 suggest that using free and reduced school lunch data to assign students is unlawful.
"Providing the requested information to OCR may violate federal law," Majestic wrote in her response to the document request.
The federal investigation into the board's assignment policy was prompted by a complaint from the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who maintain that scrapping the decade-old diversity policy will concentrate poor students into schools in poor communities.
OCR investigators are expected to meet with board members in Raleigh April 6 and 7.