Wake County Schools

Feds meet with Wake schools officials over segregation claims

Posted December 7, 2010 11:01 a.m. EST
Updated December 7, 2010 3:52 p.m. EST

School Bus

— Officials with the U.S. Department of Education were in Raleigh Tuesday to meet with Wake County Public School System administrators about allegations of racial bias in area schools.

School board Chairman Ron Margiotta, board member Keith Sutton, Interim Superintendent Donna Hargens, school board attorney Ann Majestic and other district staff members met for about two hours with four officials from the education department's Office of Civil Rights. The OCR staffers outlined the scope of their investigation into a complaint filed by the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP.

The school board voted earlier this year to change its policy for assigning students to schools, focusing on efforts to keep them near their neighborhoods and eliminating a decade-old effort to have socio-economic diversity in each of the 163 schools in the 143,000-student system.

The board was expected to discuss how to carry out the assignment policy during its meeting Tuesday evening. Public hearings will be held next month on student assignment, and the board isn't taking public comments on the issue at Tuesday's meeting, officials said.

Rev. William Barber, the president of the state NAACP, has said the new assignment policy will lead to segregation of Wake County schools and lower quality of education for low-income students. The NAACP complaint also alleges racial discrimination in disciplinary patterns and practices.

Margiotta maintains that there is no effort to discriminate. He said recently that the charges were "thrown out there to cause chaos."

Depending on the OCR's findings, Sutton said, the district could face the loss of money it receives from the federal government.