12/09/09 — NAACP reps head to D.C. to discuss school suit

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NAACP reps head to D.C. to discuss school suit

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 9, 2009 1:46 PM

The lawsuit against Wayne County Public Schools will pick up steam later this week as members of the NAACP travel to Washington D.C. to debate allegations of resegregation and the right to equality in education.

The Rev. Dr. William Barber, state president of the NAACP, made the announcement during Tuesday night's annual year-end meeting of the Goldsboro-Wayne branch.

The contingent will leave on Thursday to meet with representatives from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice, he said.

"They have received our full complaint regarding the issue of resegregation and also violation of federal and state laws," he said.

The lawsuit was filed Dec. 1 with the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division and the state Dept. of Education's Office of Civil Rights. While no official copy of the complaint has been released, Barber gave a summary during a press conference that morning.

The lawsuit centers around ending perceived segregation in the district, ensuring equity in funding and facilities for all schools, focusing curriculum on science and math, ensuring high quality teachers in all classrooms and energizing parental involvement in education.

Ultimately, Barber said, the case is based upon the Constitution.

"We are fighting for a constitutional education," he said. "We are fighting for every child to have what the federal constitutions and federal and state says we have a right to have."

While he limited his remarks pending the outcome of the upcoming trip, Barber said the NAACP's lawyers are looking at how the case relates to race as well as class.

"Our work is cut out for us," he said. "There are a lot of people working on this, working methodically. We're not working on emotion, we're working on empirical facts and data."

Barber said he would not discuss the group's legal strategies, but noted that the organization's lawyer and political advisors are also looking at what's happening in other areas, including Wake County and Wilmington.

"When we come back the state conference will hold a press conference, as to where we will go," he said. "This is now a matter for the Office of Civil Rights and the Department of Justice. ... All we ever wanted as people is justice and equality. Let us work together and do the work of justice."

Barber said afterward that it's time to "get away from the rhetoric and from just putting things out there that are not absolutely true and just let this be examined with the data."

"We believe that the Federal government will see there are some remedies" to the local situation, where "patterns of resegregation" have essentially resegregated bodies, buildings, budgets and barriers to good education, he said.

Also during the 90-minute meeting, Sylvia Barnes, branch president, gave her year-end address, with an eye toward the group's vision for 2010.

The year 2009 was a very special year, marking the 100th anniversary of the NAACP, she said.

"There are times when the task and the complicated complaints and issues that we are faced with almost seem too much," she said. "But I declare unto you, if you pull out the history of this organization, you will get the strength and you will be rekindled and your energy will come from some place.

"Now after 100 years, nine months and 28 days, what do you think our founders would say tonight if they could come back and revisit this county in which we live today, or if they could come and attend this meeting?"

Mrs. Barnes said there are still battles to be fought, wrongs to be made right.

"We are still fighting for a fair school system, our country still does not have a fair health care system for all people, there's still racism on the job," she said.

She mentioned several goals for the year ahead, including the 2010 census and the fact that it is an election year for such entities as the mayor, city council, Board of Education and county commission.

"When money is allocated, the government allots money based on the census," she said. "We have to do our part and make sure that we will encourage our families and our friends that when the census comes, that they fill out that information."

The group will hold candidate forums and "push for the best candidates to be elected" across the county. There are also plans to hold education workshops, meet with parents, monitor school board meetings and hold a monthly show on radio station WFMC, she said.

Another goal is to have a membership of 1,000 by the time they attend the national convention in July, Mrs. Barnes said.

"I think that I'm correct in saying that the North Carolina state conference is number two (in the nation)," she said. "Tonight is a good time that we can start increasing our numbers."

The branch also awarded five $500 scholarships to area students.

Student recipients included Eric Barnes, a freshman aviation management career pilot technician major attending Lenoir Community College; Chiquitta McNeill, a senior social work major at Barton College; Mieisha Walker, freshman at N.C. A&T studying social psychology; Stephen Johnson, a freshman at N.C. A&T majoring in biochemical engineering; and BrieAnna VanBrook, at UNC-Chapel Hill majoring in international studies.