08/18/04 — Group taking civil rights complaint to Washington D.C.

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Group taking civil rights complaint to Washington D.C.

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 18, 2004 2:06 PM

A group concerned about racial imbalance and achievement gaps in the schools is taking its complaint to the U.S. Office of Civil Rights next week.

During a news conference Tuesday, members of Concerned Clergy and the Wayne NAACP said they have an appointment with officials in Washington, D.C., on Monday morning.

The Rev. William Barber of Concerned Clergy said the meeting is the group's next step before considering whether it takes legal action. He said a complaint filed in the spring had received more than 200 signatures.

"Our complaints were founded on the facts and figures produced by the school board in its ABC reporting data," which is the state's accountability program, he said.

Barber said the meeting will also serve as an opportunity to present a legislative policy request about federal Title I money schools that schools receive. He called the trip necessary because of all the things that have been proposed over the years but never came to fruition.

"We offered a progressive proposal to try and fix the problems locally in the spring of 2003," he said. "We proposed a Blue Ribbon Commission led by objective consultants and organized with citizens to study the economic and social impact of low student achievement, assess the state of our community, and offer solutions which would address redistricting, facility needs, resources, community involvement, and even personal responsibility."

Barber said the Office of Civil Rights seeks first to bring communities together, and he expects it will work to move forward on the group's complaint.

"We love this community," he said. "We love the teachers; we love all of the children and we even love the school board even though we disagree with its current and past policies in regards to these issues."

He said at least two vans are expected to transport citizens to Washington, with others planning to join the group there.

"It's pretty clear what we should be doing," said group member Bobby Jones. "We need to get politically correct and biblically correct." He said even though his three daughters have already graduated from Goldsboro High School, he remains concerned about the children still in the schools.

"I have a 3-year-old granddaughter," he said. "She serves as a constant reminder that our children need advocates."

Charles Wright of Goldsboro said he also has strong concerns about the federal No Child Left Behind law and programs that receive Title I money.

"I think it's good when any citizen group can go to Washington and talk to people," he said. "It gives them the opportunity to see us, see who we are. And it gives us an opportunity to talk with people who make decisions."

Katherine Townsend works with Concerned Clergy and serves as religious affairs chairman for the county NAACP. Even though she has no children, she said she has nieces and nephews and feels she is a surrogate parent to a lot of young people.

"I'm concerned about the future," she said. "My purpose for going is to make sure our voice from the community is heard and that our children are not left behind because a few people did not agree with doing what's right before God and the public."

County NAACP President Sylvia Barnes said she is also excited about the trip.

"This is going to be a new learning experience for us," she said. "We'll all have our eyes open, and our ears will be perked up just like a rabbit's so that we can take it all in."