12/16/09 — NAACP says it is moving forward with school suit

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NAACP says it is moving forward with school suit

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 16, 2009 1:46 PM

RALEIGH -- An NAACP delegation that traveled to Washington D.C. to plead its case alleging resegregation in Wayne County Public Schools held another press conference Tuesday, but is still not talking about the particulars of the complaint the organization claims it has filed against the school district.

On Dec. 1, the Rev. Dr. William Barber, state NAACP president, announced a complaint was being filed with the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education Civil Rights Office.

A group went to D.C. on Dec. 10, where members met with attorneys from both offices for more than three hours, Barber said during a press conference Tuesday outside the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

The Title VI complaint centers around reversing discriminatory practices in the school system. Title VI was enacted as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and "prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance."

The NAACP alleged "gross disparities" between poor children in the predominantly "white districts" as compared to the Goldsboro "black district" -- in such areas as test scores, suspensions and graduation rates.

The complaint was filed, Barber said, on behalf of all children assigned to the Goldsboro attendance district and any children in the district "who are deprived of constitutional educational by the policies and practices of the Wayne County School Board" that have directly and indirectly caused resegregation and other practices that have adversely impacted the quality of education.

Barber declined comment on the specifics of the lawsuit, and would not discuss legal strategies except to say that the group will continue meeting with its attorneys and organizers.

"(Federal officials) have said they're going to fully investigate these matters that are quite troubling," he said. "They will be contacting the school board and releasing their report and there will be a full investigation on this matter."

Charles Wright, who leads the education council for the Goldsboro-Wayne Branch of NAACP, also discussed his portion of the D.C. presentation regarding Title I funding, which is available for schools that serve at-risk students from economically challenged households.

"Goldsboro High School received Title I money in 1999-2000, 2000-2001 and 2001-2002," he said. "After 2001-2002, Goldsboro High School no longer accepted or wanted Title I funding."

The termination date coincides with the introduction of the federal legislation No Child Left Behind, Wright said.

"The school board has constantly told us that was because it was putting the emphasis on middle school children. GHS has been deprived of an additional $3 million that was earmarked to meet the education needs of at-risk students," he said, calling it a "gross misuse of the law."

The issue of resegregation is alive and well in Wayne County, Barber said, and it's time to take responsibility for the education of its children. The state NAACP is monitoring not only Wayne County, he added, but all the state's school districts.

"I don't know how quickly this (lawsuit) process will go because we asked them to be thorough," he said. "We know that there needs to be a clear, thoughtful, focused investigation based on the law -- not based on 10-second sound bites from the school board."

The issue of resegregation is not unique to Wayne County, however, Barber said, citing recent problems with districts in Wake and New Hanover counties, both of which are coming under scrutiny from the NAACP.

"We intend to do everything through organization and agitation and legislation and if necessary, litigation," he said. "We watch very carefully and when we see the gross disparities, the inequities, we move."

Barber said he also is sending a letter to Wake County Board of Education requesting time of the board's January 2010 agenda to make a 45-minute presentation before the full board, spelling out the NAACP's analysis and suggestions for Wake County Public Schools.

"We're asking that board (for time) since they said they wanted to hear from the public," he said.