06/18/04 — Edwards weighs in on Goldsboro schools

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Edwards weighs in on Goldsboro schools

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 18, 2004 2:00 PM

U.S. Sen. John Edwards has written a letter to the national Office of Civil Rights in response to Concerned Clergy's efforts to improve the racial balance in the central Goldsboro schools.

"I certainly appreciate your frustration that, 50 years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, the public schools in Goldsboro have yet to be integrated," Edwards wrote to the clergy.

Pete Gurley, chairman of the Wayne County Board of Education, called the comment "absolutely untrue."

"Those schools were integrated within the last 50 years" of the Supreme Court decision that ended segregation, he said. "They were totally integrated in 1970."

Prior to that time, the student population in the central Goldsboro schools was predominantly white, because of segregation. The schools now are predominantly black.

Edwards' office was contacted by the News-Argus this morning for comment on the letter. Edwards' spokesman Jonathan Sumrell was also asked about the statement concerning integration. His response was, "We stand by the letter."

Edwards had received a letter from the clergy group seeking his help. Letters about the local problem were also sent to several other public leaders, said Rev. Dr. William Barber II of Concerned Clergy. He called the current situation in the public school system "the unconstitutional continuing legacy of segregation."

It read, "We believe that the continuance of things as they are hurts economic development, social unity, and may negatively impact even the review regarding Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

"We want to see things better."

In the letter, Barber urged leaders to join in support of the Concerned Clergy's civil rights complaint that was recently filed.

"We must do better for our children," it read. "We must do better in our state. North Carolina led in the desegregating of lunch counters 40 years ago. We surely cannot allow segregation and low student achievement to go unchallenged today."

In his response, Edwards acknowledged the suggestion to implement a magnet school program to promote racial diversity.

Edwards also wrote that he had sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights about the Concerned Clergy complaint.

"I trust that the Office of Civil Rights will carefully consider the points you have raised and will give your Title VI complaint every due consideration," he wrote.