Focal Point: Reading, Writing and Race

Posted June 30, 2004 3:50 p.m. EDT
Updated September 30, 2012 12:16 p.m. EDT

Original Air Date: June 30, 2004

This 30-minute documentary examines the trend towards “resegregation” of public schools in North Carolina 50 years after the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision in which the US Supreme Court declared racial segregation of schools unconstitutional.

The focal point of the program is the Wayne County school system, which provides an example of the issue. As a result of “white flight” to the suburbs, six schools in the Goldsboro inner-city attendance area are now almost 100 percent black. City leaders and community activists have complained to school officials and threatened legal action, drawing media attention to the situation in recent months. The school officials say the city needs to do something about housing patterns and have no plans on the table to remedy the problem. The documentary profiles students and parents who transferred out of Goldsboro’s inner-city attendance area and some who remain. It also profiles students and parents in Wake County Schools, using that school system as an example of one that has successfully desegregated.

The program looks at the issue statewide and features interviews with the state’s two top education officials, Superintendent Mike Ward and State Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee, who have slightly differing views of the problem and how it should be addressed. Lee says as long as students are doing well academically he doesn’t see segregation as a major issue, while Ward, echoing the sentiment of the Brown ruling, says creating diverse schools is about much more than academic performance. Most of the students, parents, and experts interviewed for this program share that sentiment.

While the causes and cures of resegregation (which is not in the dictionary, but rather a word born from this issue) are complex, essentially the conclusion of the documentary is that solutions are available if leaders have the political courage needed to make the decisions required to implement them.