NAACP files complaint against North Carolina school district

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — An eastern North Carolina public school system has deliberately segregated schools, putting black students at a disadvantage and creating “a district of apartheid education,” the NAACP said in a federal complaint filed Tuesday.

The state NAACP president, the Rev. William Barber, said at a news conference Tuesday the organization filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Justice and Education departments against the Wayne County schools in Goldsboro. If the Department of Justice approves the complaint, it would go to court, Barber said.

NAACP attorney Irving Joyner said the school system is accused of violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which makes it illegal to distribute federal funds on the basis of racial discrimination.

Barber cited policies that he says have resulted in lower graduation rates, higher suspension rates and more and stiffer discipline for black students. He says the central attendance district in Goldsboro has a student population that’s almost 100 percent black while another district in Goldsboro is almost 90 percent white.

Barber said 94 percent of students in the Goldsboro Central Attendance district receive free or reduced school lunches — a sign of poverty — and more than 50 percent never graduate. Out of 2,100 students enrolled in the Central Attendance District, only four are white, Barber said.

By comparison, at Eastern Wayne High School, 7 miles away from the central district, almost 90 percent of students go on to graduate.

At Carver Elementary School inside the Central Attendance District, the suspension rate is 135 suspensions for every 100 students, the NAACP said. Many students are suspended multiple times within one year, said Charles Wright, education chairman for the Goldsboro chapter of the NAACP whose three sons attended school in the central district. At the next closest elementary school outside the Central Attendance District there are 40 suspensions for every 100 students, Wright said. And countywide, the average is 54 suspensions per every 100 students, he said.

Wayne County schools spokesman Ken Derksen said the school system couldn’t comment on the allegations until the they receive the complaint from the Department of Justice.

Wayne County school board members reached Tuesday also declined to comment.

Barber said that the schools in Wayne County were desegregated in the 1970s. But the NAACP alleges that the Wayne County School Board has deliberately re-segregated schools by redrawing district lines and busing white students as far as eight miles away to attend school when the “black district” is less than two miles away.

“They redistricted certain streets that allow white, middle class students to go to different schools,” Barber said.

Barber says the school board’s policy of allowing students to transfer out of a district if they have their own transportation discriminates against poor students not able to provide their own transportation.

Professor William Darity, an education policy expert at Duke University, said that policies that put black students at a disadvantage are common in public schools, but if Wayne County’s policies are intentionally designed to re-segregate schools, that would be unusual.

“To have used a busing policy for the purposes of re-segregating schools, that’s back to the 1940’s,” Darity said. “It’s a restoration of the dual school system and that’s extraordinary,” he added.

The Department of Justice said it would submit the case for review to the Office of Civil Rights, which will determine how to resolve the complaint.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.