Wake County Schools

Wake schools corrects some data in civil rights probe

Posted April 14, 2011 5:20 p.m. EDT
Updated April 14, 2011 6:09 p.m. EDT

Wake County Public School System

— Wake County schools officials are correcting some data about minority students and busing that was included in a report submitted in early April to federal civil-rights investigators looking into a complaint about the county's student assignment policy.

The report to the Office for Civil Rights stated that under the old student assignment policy, poor and minority students were subjected to "disproportionately long bus rides" and that there is "a strong correlation between long bus rides and low academic performance" for students of all ethnicities.

The numbers support that contention for white and black students but not for Hispanics and other small minority populations, school board attorney Anne Majestic said Thursday. The data sets from smaller ethnic groups "are probably too small to be meaningful," she said.

Rev. Barber Williams, president of the state chapter of the NAACP, said those errors reflect the views of school board members who want to end the old assignment policy based, in part, on socioeconomic diversity.

"They created a hypothesis," Barber said. "Their hypothesis is, how can we prove that neighborhood schools are good against what the research says, what the law says and what history says? And then they tried ... to prove it."

School board chair Ron Margiotta said the errors were minor, and he stands by the overall report.

"She made a couple errors, but they tend to be very minor in scope," Margiotta said. "I think the important factor that we have to consider and that we are concerned with and should be concerned with is that we haven't helped students by moving them a distance."

He said he thinks the data can be corrected without slowing or having a significant impact on the Office of Civil Rights' investigation.

Margiotta is part of a majority on the Wake County Board of Education that favors a neighborhood schools model, which they say would increase parental choice and involvement and academic achievement.

The NAACP filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights, claiming that ending the old policy would re-segregate schools and concentrate minority students in schools in poor communities.