Local News

Garner Mayor: Supreme Court Ruling Might Justify Lawsuit Against Wake Schools

Posted June 28, 2007 8:18 p.m. EDT

— Wake County school leaders said it appears Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling will not impact current policy in the county, but one local mayor disagrees.

The Supreme Court rejected school assignment plans that take account of students' race in two major public school districts. The decisions could imperil similar plans nationwide.

Wake County uses several factors other than race to determine diversity, but Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams said what happened in Washington could pave the way for a lawsuit against the school board.

“We argue that they’re busing to achieve racial diversity,” Williams said. “They use the term socio-economic diversity.”

Wake County school board Chair Rosa Gill said race does not play a factor.

“There are some parents who will say race is a factor, but we really try to look at socio-economic and academic achievement,” she said.

For socio-economic status, the board looks at students who are eligible for free or reduced lunches. Wake County tries to keep that number under 40 percent at individual schools. Schools try to keep students scoring below grade levels at only 20 percent of their population.

Wake County has lived by these guidelines since changing policy in 2000. To help maintain levels, students can be bused miles from their neighborhoods.

Williams argues that the school system is busing to achieve racial diversity. He wants to overturn the school board’s policy and said he thinks Thursday’s ruling could help.

“If in fact it can be ruled that socio-economic diversity can be the same as busing to achieve racial balances, then I think we have a case,” Williams said.

The town of Garner plans to discuss options for a lawsuit at a meeting next Monday, he said.

On the possible legal action, Wake County Superintendent Del Burns said “attorneys will have to determine that.”