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NAACP files complaint against Wake County schools

Posted September 25, 2010

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— The NAACP filed a complaint late Friday against Wake County schools, arguing that a move toward a community-based student assignment policy violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The complaint asks the U.S. Justice Department and the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education to overturn an effort by a five-member majority on the Wake County Board of Education to replace a decade-old student assignment policy that included a focus on socioeconomic diversity.

"We must fight re-segregation and demand high-quality, constitutional, diverse, well-funded education for all our children," State NAACP President Rev. William Barber said at a gathering at Christian Faith Baptist Church in Raleigh Saturday. "We believe this kind of disparity is illegal and must be challenged."

Opponents of the change believe will lead to re-segregation, high teacher turnover and a lower quality of education for low-income students. Supporters argue that the move, still months away, will help improve test scores and enable parents to be more involved in their children's education.

A draft map released by Aug. 31 creates 16 student-assignment zones around 21 current or planned high schools. Zones would be grouped into five regions. The school board cautions that the map is fluid and is just a basis for discussions going forward.

The NAACp has been a leading critic of the change, and the group's national president, Ben Jealous, backed the complaint against the school system.

"The county deserves a plan that works," Jealous said in Raleigh Saturday. "It has one. Let's get back to that, so we can tackle the tough issues that still need to be dealt with."

Wake County Board of Education Chair Ron Margiotta, thought, said that it's time for change. He pointed to low graduation rates and test scores as proof that the old student assignment policy wasn't working.

"That last plan, I'd have to admit, was a a public relations success, but was an academic failure," Margiotta said.

Along with the NAACP, the complaint was filed by a Wake County youth group called Heroes Emerge Among Teens and Quinton White, an 18-year-old student who was transferred from the high school he had been attending until this year.

The complainants seek to prove intentional discrimination on the part of the board, that the new policies backed by the board would disproportionately harm nonwhites and that Wake schools’ discipline policies have been enforced in a discriminatory manner. The motion is based on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act that prohibits recipients of federal funds from discriminating on basis of race, color and national origin.

The NAACP cited the April 6 decisions to reassign students who live in southeast Raleigh from Garner High School and from Stough Elementary School to Lacy Elementary School. The civil rights group also presented its own research that 94 percent of students expelled by Wake schools in the last five years have been black, although blacks make up roughly a quarter of the student population. That research predates last year’s school board elections, which created the 5-4 majority that favors ending the socioeconomic diversity program.

The next step in such complaints usually involves the federal agency asking the responding party – in this case, the school board – for information, followed by an investigation.

Barber said the complainants have amassed a vast amount of evidence to back up their claims and hopes to bring Wake County residents to meet soon with Department of Education officials in Washington, D.C. The NAACP is holding a march in the national capital next Saturday.

Margiotta said that the cost of the upcoming legal battle will hurt schools.

"Those same dollars could be used to keep teachers in the classroom. It's going to be a very expensive suit to defend," Margiotta said.

Filing a complaint is only the first legal challenge the NAACP is prepared to make, Barber said. He didn't rule out the possibility of a state or federal lawsuit and said that the NAACP has developed legal strategies with the help of lawyers with North Carolina Justice Center, UNC Center for Civil Rights, Southern Coalition for Social Justice and Legal Aid of North Carolina.

Barber said that he will pursue "every means of direct action" whether "in the streets or in the suites."

26 Comments

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  • sweetwhisper70 Sep 29, 4:35 p.m.

    I went to school in a county in North Carolina that is community based, it was mapped out by neighborhoods. I dont understand what the big deal is? If the neighborhoods are so segregated that it would make the schools that way shouldnt that be a concern. The way the schools were before bussing out kids sounds like your kid is good enough to go to our school if we must but not good enough to live down the street. I think kids should go to school with those in their surrounding neighborhoods, with their friends in and out of school. Find a way to make schools that might receive less of tax payers money because of location better for the students who attend.

  • Card Player Sep 29, 9:52 a.m.

    When the NAACP cites the Civil Rights Act of 1964, they should also remind everyone that it was Democrats who fought against it's passage. 80% of Republicans supported it. 61% of Democrats supported it. Oops. That doesn't fit their narrative. Nevermind.

  • FedUpAmerican Sep 28, 5:03 p.m.

    lorivalentine1... I believe the word you're looking for is "BOULDER!) HEHEHHEH

  • mpsoldier1985 Sep 28, 9:17 a.m.

    Stop telling our kids that they will never be good enough unless they sit beside a white or black kid in school. All kids have the potential to be great citizens. But it starts with the parents. If the parents do not provide the sturdy foundation of discipline and valyes then the teachers have no lefs to stand on.

  • mpsoldier1985 Sep 28, 9:11 a.m.

    I mean if it was up to NAACP....we would start telling families where to live. Where is the freedom they preach about when the NAACP wants a child to have to travels across the county to go to school when there is one two blocks away?

  • lorivalentine1 Sep 27, 6:18 p.m.

    Barber needs to crawl under any rock he can fit under and stop trying to cause trouble. This is a ridiculous waste of money to the tax payers. If the stats show 94% of exspelled students were black why is Barber not trying to look at the real reason why and stop making excuses for parents and students who could care less about their education. All kids can succeeed if they want to. Kids today are lazy and want everything handed to them and the parents foster that. It is easier to steal or whine about something then to work for it. I would be interested in seeing the stats (school and crime history)for all the exspelled students.. then we can really tell who deserved it or not. Of course we know that will never happen.

  • injameswetrust2003 Sep 27, 5:29 p.m.

    The rabble rousers are at it again. This is looking like a conspiracy between the liberal media and the liberals. Why are they complaining about the suspension rate from the past? Don't Eleanor Goaty and those others that were forced out, need to be named in the lawsuit?

  • noreplytome2 Sep 27, 2:29 p.m.

    Run the story for a few days, then ditch it to the back burner before folks can GOLO how ridiculous this whole thing is. About time to separate your 'journalism' from 'advertising' for Barber and his poor judgement of the month, aka "story".

  • ncguy Sep 27, 2:10 p.m.

    Wral post this on the front page over the weekend and no one can comment and it's there all sarurday and sunday i have to look at ole rev re run barber.

    ENOUGH!

  • MamaDummy Sep 27, 1:13 p.m.

    he is not in it for justice

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