Local News

Garner Mayor Defends Protest Against Busing

Posted April 15, 2008 12:34 p.m. EDT
Updated April 15, 2008 6:22 p.m. EDT

— Meeting with community activists Tuesday, Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams said he does not think he needs to apologize for a recent comment he made concerning students being bused to the town.

"Sitting here today, I don't think I owe anybody an apology," Williams said. "But I will admit, I may have chosen my words a little more carefully."

In an interview last week, Williams said his town does not want any more students from Southeast Raleigh being bused to Garner.

The comment drew ire from Southeast Raleigh community leaders who took offense to the remark, which they believe was directed at low-income minority students.

But Williams said during a two-hour meeting with community leaders Tuesday that race has nothing to do with his comments.

He has long said there is an unequal share of poverty in Garner schools and that the town has a high percentage of low-income students because of busing.

The Wake County Public School System measures economic diversity in a school by the number of students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch. It tries to keep the level below 40 percent.

Williams has said more than half of students qualify in many of the town's schools.

"We are not targeting any student from anywhere. The numbers are there, and they reveal the facts,” Williams has said.

The group wants to meet regularly to talk about the issue. Members have planned another meeting in two weeks and eventually want to take their concerns to the school board.