Education

NAACP files complaint against Wake school board

Posted March 5, 2010 12:12 p.m. EST
Updated March 5, 2010 8:15 p.m. EST

— The debate over halting a policy that diversifies schools in a North Carolina county is turning strident with accusations of racism.

Officials with the North Carolina NAACP filed a complaint Friday against the Wake County Board of Education, saying that a comment by Chairman Ron Margiotta referring to opponents of the policy as "animals" indicated that the board has "racist attitudes."

At a news conference Friday morning, Al McSurely, an NAACP attorney, also questioned Margiotta's educational background and referred to the members halting the diversity policy as "clowns."

Board Chairman Ron Margiotta has said his "animals" comment was out of line but not racial. He is part of a new board majority looking to roll back a school busing policy in favor of focusing on neighborhood schools.

Margiotta could not be reached for comment Friday but admitted Thursday that his comment was out of line.

He insisted, however, that is was not racial, but was a response to how rude people in the crowd at Tuesday's school board meeting were following a comment by Bill Randall, a black congressional candidate speaking in support of the school board's proposed policy.

The NAACP has been an outspoken critic of the school board's idea for community-based schools, saying it is a "racially discriminatory policy" that will segregate poor students and keep them from receiving the same quality of education as more advantaged students. The group has threatened legal action against the school system.

School board members, however, have insisted that they have no plans to segregate students and that student achievement is their top priority.

Friday's complaint was filed with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. It is an accrediting organization but has no formal governance over the Wake County Public School System or the school board.