Education

Protestors barred from Wake school property

Posted July 14, 2010 4:42 p.m. EDT
Updated July 15, 2010 12:18 p.m. EDT

— Four people who brought a Wake County school board meeting to a standstill last month still have not responded to a letter barring them from school property, a Wake schools spokesman said Wednesday.

The board on Monday notified state NAACP president Rev. William Barber and three others that they must provide written assurances that they won't disrupt or obstruct any other meetings.

Doing so, the letter states, would mean "immediate legal action" against them, Russ Smith, senior director of security for the Wake County Public School System, wrote.

Barber, 46; Nancy Ellen Petty, 46, 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, were charged with second-degree trespassing following the June 15 demonstration against a new student assignment policy.

The letters, sent less than a week before an expected mass protest at the July 20 school board meeting, state that by disturbing the June board meeting, those arrested, “blatantly violated the board's rules for public participation at board meetings and attempted to prevent the board from conducting its meeting."

"You can not come to a meeting and shut it down,” Wake school board Chairman Ron Margiotta said Wednesday.

Margiotta said he ordered the letters sent because he doesn't want another such disruption.

"I have a great deal of respect for people's rights and objections to what we are doing ... but there are certain limits to what they can follow through with,” Margiotta said.

Petty said Wednesday evening that she and the other protesters felt disrupting the meeting was the only way they could be heard.

"I don't have any regrets," Petty said of the demonstration.

The four were protesting the school board’s recent decision to move away from an assignment policy where students are bused across the district to help balance socio-economic diversity. The new policy, which is still under development, aims to place students closer to their homes.

The school system currently bases diversity calculations 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.

Barber has called the new assignment plan a "public emergency" and said he won't stop fighting the board's "morally wrong" decision. He and other opponents fear schools will become resegregated.

Leaders of the NAACP and African Methodist Episcopal Zion Churches of the Eastern District are encouraging other civic, religious, parent and student groups to take part in a mass demonstration Tuesday against the planned policy change.

Petty said she has not received the certified letter yet barring her from school property, but she plans to continue standing up against the board's new policy.

"I am planning, at this point, to go to the (next) school board meeting,” she said.

Margiotta said the school system has hired four off-duty police officers in anticipation of demonstrations during Tuesday's meeting. The board is also consulting with Raleigh police about additional security.

(WRAL.com will provide live video of the Wake school board meeting Tuesday.)

The Wake school system's assignment plan now in place became a national model for districts looking to achieve balance in student populations without violating a 2007 Supreme Court decision that limits the use of race in how students are assigned.

The five board members who voted to end the policy argue there are better ways to achieve diversity in schools. They favor keeping Wake's nearly 140,000 students as close to home as possible.

Other board members point to studies that say the old socio-economic policy actually increased the number of schools with high percentages of students receiving free and reduced lunches.