Letters about the Wake County schools protest and school board meeting Tuesday are streaming in, many of them too long to print. Here’s a sampling, including two detailing instances when people who signed up to speak at the meeting did not get their say. Some you will see in print over the next few days.
Mobs of people, mostly from outside Wake County, carried out their planned unruly acts at the Wake school board meeting. While doing so in the name of what they called civil rights, they robbed others of their First Amendment right to address the meeting in support of the school board members.
Judy Keener, a leader of a coalition of those supporting the good work of the board, spent the entire day waiting her turn. She was there to deliver Petitions of Support and Appreciation for the Board bearing over 1,200 signatures. Judy arrived at the building before 9 a.m. in order to get on line to sign up for a “ticket” to speak during the 3 p.m. public hearing. There were two categories of sign-up sheets. One was for speaking on an agenda item and one for addressing non-agenda issues. Judy was among the first to sign to speak on the agenda item sign-up list. Before she could sign the list, a woman got in line ahead of her and signed on the agenda items list the names 20 people who were not yet there.
After signing the form, there was then the long wait until the 3 p.m. hearing time. When the hearing began. all of the 20 speakers whose names were signed by someone other than the speakers themselves were allowed to speak – not on agenda items as they had signed up to do, but using their time to very harshly sound off their criticism of the new board members.
Judy was supposed to be next to speak. Just as she approached the podium, the pre-planned and organized unruly mob began their loud and boisterous “take over” of the meeting. The disruption of the meeting resulted in the reported arrest of 19 people, including very young, apparent students. That was what the media were looking for, and they all gave their full attention to the disrupting mob. A recess had to be called to allow law enforcement officers to remove the unruly and restore order.
Finally, after waiting all day for her turn to speak, Mrs. Keener was given her opportunity to speak and to present the petitions. Because all of the media were focused on the mob action, little attention was paid to the important purpose for which she was addressing the board. Her First Amendment rights had been wiped out by the mob behavior of those whose announced purpose was disruption of civil process.
It’s high time the media stopped promoting the mob rule and started reporting fairly the efforts of those who are working hard in compliance with civil process to do what is best for the children of Wake County. Without all the media support, the mob rule opposition would quickly wither away – as it should!
J. Russell Capps
I took my 15-year old son to Hillsborough Street at 8:45 Tuesday morning. He took a CAT bus to the Convention Center and participated in the march to the Capitol, where he stood alongside over a thousand other people, in 95-degree heat, to hear all the speakers at the rally. He walked to Pullen Memorial Baptist Church to pray and prepare for the school board meeting. He left there and went to the school board meeting, where he waited outside for 45 minutes, then spent four hours inside trying to obtain a ticket to attend a public meeting where he signed up to speak. After 10 hours of working for an opportunity to express his views, he saw the school board move into closed session instead of continuing with the public hearing. Here is what he wanted to say:
“I have spent 11 years in the WCPSS. I am proud to be in a school system recognized across the country as a model for diversity within education. Sadly, this is about to change because of five close-minded board members. I am a product of a school system that taught me to value diversity. I understand that when I graduate, I will enter a diverse world. I will also graduate with the understanding that I can learn something from every person I meet – black, white; rich, poor; conservative, liberal. It is also my responsibility to share what I know with others. And what I know is that a neighborhood school system will segregate schools based on socio-economic status and create unequal opportunities for learning. It will also prohibit current and future students from benefitting from the diversity that was so important and relevant in my education.
“In January, I was honored to be asked to read at a joint service with Pullen Memorial and Martin Street Baptist Churches. I was humbled to read words spoken by Martin Luther King Jr. On that day, I made a promise to myself that I would take the words that he once spoke and make them resonate in my life, and throughout the world. That is why I will never stop fighting for a diverse, public school system in Wake County.”
Dr. Jill Hinton
Why did the voters of Wake County elect a school board that supports community-based schools? Because statistics show that community-based schools increase the graduation rate for all children.
Because it is safer than busing children two hours in busy traffic. Because busing is extremely expensive. Because community schools promote parental involvement. Parents will attend a PTA meeting with their friends and neighbors but are less likely to attend with strangers from another part of town. Because parents want their children attending school with their neighborhood friends, starting life-long friendships.
The list goes on. The one reason is certainly not to “resegregate” our school system. Community-based schools are not segregated. It is important to remember that the taxpayers of Wake County spoke at the ballot box. We are a community of rules and laws.
Rev. William Barber is a self-appointed leader of a few who disagree, most of whom do not live in Wake County. He continues to disrupt school board meetings, arguing the school board is wrong for “resegregating” our schools when they are clearly not doing so. Barber does not pay taxes in Wake County; he cannot even vote in Wake County. Where was Barber when Guilford County, Mecklenburg County, Johnson County, Wilson County and every other major school system in our country abandoned the broken idea of busing? Why does Barber want to keep our youth trapped in a broken school system?
Wake County has a larger population than any county in North Carolina. We should have been the leader for community-based schools. At least we will be the last to have community-based schools. Community-based schools are the best way to educate our children and prepare them for the future. Shouldn’t that be what this is about? Supporters of our school board need to let them know we do support community-based schools. This is a Wake County issue.
It seems there is a strange phenomenon taking place around the Wake County school board’s decision to end the busing for diversity policy. Opponents frequently reference the terms “segregation” and “re-segregation.” I think the word they really should strive for is “graduation.” (The same semantical game is played when “illegal aliens” are referred to as “immigrants,” but that is for another letter).
Please show me the data that demonstrate busing for diversity improves or maintains acceptable levels of high school graduation rates for our young people. In the mean time, we must all focus our efforts on equipping our young people with a world class education. f we can achieve diversity in addition to this most basic and mandated goal, fantastic! However, the schools’ foremost goal is, and always should be, graduating people who are prepared for the world of work and higher education. Period.
As a professor of conflict management, I am saddened by the current school board/community conflict. The situation has escalated to an intractable conflict – one that is resistant to resolution – and we need to create an opportunity for productive communication.
One of the characteristics of intractable conflict is that parties no longer focus on the issue that started the conflict. In this case, the issue is public school zoning. The underlying interests for everyone involved are the same: the best possible education for our children and reducing the amount of time any child spends on a bus or other transport to/from school.
Sadly, this conflict has escalated to the point where we do not focus on these common interests, instead assuming the worst about each other. Neither side is willing to acknowledge that the other has legitimate interests and concerns; and dialogue has been impossible.
While the existing process of participation has not been productive, there are experts who could facilitate a dialogue where the goal is understanding rather than a power struggle to prove who is right. I hope that someone will step in and ensure this happens or this threatens to irreparably damage our community.
The N&O’s deep coverage of Tuesday’s demonstrations at the Wake County School Board bring to mind a very possible and disturbing scenario. Perhaps, something like this.
An executive jet has just landed at RDU. A limousine, two well-dressed men, a very pretty lady and a black limousine all awaiting the sole passenger to join them.
“On behalf of the governor and the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, welcome to our beautiful state. You know the $165 million state grant has already been approved if your company relocates in Wake County.”
“Yes, I understand that. First, though, I’d like to get a feel about your community. You know, with 600 new families moving in, they’re very anxious to know about your schools. Have your driver stop at the next convenience store so I can pick up a copy of your local paper. What’s it called?”
“The News & Observer ... But we’re completely sold out today. Sorry!”
A letter to the editor published in the Sunday Forum sounded highly intriguing. The writer suggested a fresh approach to schooling students from less affluent neighborhoods by advocating a year-round/10-hour-per-day curriculum. Though this may sound unacceptable to many, I think she makes a valid point, and her suggestions (a computer for each student, double teacher pay, three meals a day, no soda machines and more) are sensible.
One most urgent addition to this plan would be:
Two OUTDOOR breaks per day that would require a large closed- n school yard with shade trees and open areas, as well as a walking/running track.
Ideally, this school would ALSO have an activity bus that should be kept rolling daily, not to ferry students to school, but rather to take various groups on excursions to places such as the State Capitol and State House, Washington, the zoo, museums of all kind, the mountains and the sea coast, the Research Triangle, universities of the area, the N.C. Solar Center and, possibly, some businesses (a variety of farms, manufacturing firms, a nuclear power plant or even state offices such as extension stations). Each student would experience valuable lessons outside of school during their tenure. To top it all off, an international exchange program would be the icing on the cake.
Such an institution, if made a magnet school, would draw students from all around the county.
As the debates rage on concerning the Wake County school board, there are some who assert that race does not matter. However, I find myself outraged at the treatment of school board member Keith Sutton by officers of the Raleigh Police Department. According to witnesses, Sutton had come down on the floor to try to talk to protesters and encourage a sense of calm. Unfortunately, police officers grabbed Sutton and bound his hands behind his back to arrest him. Luckily, a school system official intervened and informed the officers that Sutton was a member of the board.
How could the officers have mistaken Sutton for a protester? Had he not been sitting up front behind the desk with the other board members during the meeting?
It would appear that the officers paid attention only to Sutton’s color, not his face or his seat in the room. Had one of the other male members of the school board been standing there, would the police officers have tried to arrest him? I sincerely doubt it.
The next time someone says, “Race doesn’t matter,” ask some of the officers with the Raleigh Police Department. You should also ask Keith Sutton.
Official policy of The Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina can be established only by Diocesan Convention or Diocesan Council. Neither of these bodies has addressed the specifics of the Wake County school board’s diversity policy.
There are clergy and members of this diocese who are involved in this issue. I encourage Episcopal clergy to participate in public concerns seeking the common good. When they do so, they speak personally and with the moral authority granted by ordination, but not officially for the diocese or their respective congregations.
I marched on July 20 to support the need for a diversity policy that ensures equal opportunity and access to education for all children within the Wake County school system. I do so as an individual, as a person of faith and as a bishop, but I do not speak on behalf of other Episcopalians. It is important that this debate and discussion be respectful, civil and in the best traditions of American democracy.
Bishop Michael B. Curry
Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina
Long bus rides and constant reassignments are recurring complaints of many diversity opponents. These serious complaints must be addressed. They do not, however, lead to the conclusion that diversity in schools is worthless. Its not an either/or situation, but that’s how the school board presents it to us.
Reasonable bus rides, school assignment stability and diversity can all be achieved. Why aren’t we working toward all these goals? Why does the school board insist on discarding a goal that is so obviously meaningful to so many in our community?
Disarm your opposition, majority members, by including diversity as a goal.
Clergy, families, teachers, students, elected officials, the African-American community and many more have all stood up to try and make their voices heard.
They live here. too. Their desire to maintain diversity in schools should not be rejected out of hand, but respected and incorporated into the school board’s agenda.
School board members cannot render such a huge segment of the people they serve invisible. By defiantly turning a deaf ear, they escalate the fight and deepen the divide. By saying, “You don’t matter,” they are guilty, ironically, of what they accuse the previous school board of doing.
The Wake County school board has voted multiple times over the last several months to scrap the district’s diversity policy, which distributed students based on socioeconomics. The elections in 2009 showed that the majority of the people who voted demand a focus on neighborhood schools. Does majority vote still have a meaning in America?
The election was last year, not this year. It’s over. Maybe someone should explain it to the trespassers who interrupted the meeting Tuesday – if they would listen to anyone. Three cheers to the school board members for holding their ground.
A few members of the Wake County school board have changed the laws to re-introduce neighborhood schools in Wake County. In other words, since most neighborhoods, especially low-wealth ones, are still segregated by race, segregated schools are being re-introduced.
The latest school board meeting was interrupted by citizens who believe the board is going down a road that has been trod before. These citizens feel so strongly that they were arrested for civil disobedience.
It is time for the school board to rethink the policy and to present a plan to the citizens that will work well for all students in the school system. Until that day comes, it appears there will continue to be strife between some members of the board and some members of the community. We will continue the fight for diversity in the school system!
Martin Luther King Committee
Busing for racial integration has changed over the years to busing for economic diversity, but in reality it’s the same. A big difference from 40 years ago when busing achieved a racial balance in the nation’s school is there are black families in every neighborhood today. Just look on your street or in the apartment complexes in your area. With all the black families living in each school zone, forced busing is not needed to achieve a racial balance. The only exception is the neighborhoods in Southeast Raleigh, which is primarily black. To resolve that situation, Rev. William Barber’s white supporters should send their children and grandchildren to the Southeast Raleigh schools. Problem solved.
Now Barber can address some real problems in his own community, like the epidemic of young black males running around with guns and young single black girls with babies they cannot afford to care for, and black community leaders should admit problems exist in their community instead of always blaming society for their shortcomings.
It is clear that the new members of the WCPSS Board of Education will not listen to members of the public who are opposed to the change to the current diversity policy.
What will it take before the new majority realizes that they may be off-base in pushing for neighborhood schools?
Civil disobedience is the single best method by which the residents of Wake County can express their displeasure with the direction of the new board.
I am proud of the students who have chosen to stand up for what is right today.
These young people are the future, and with people as involved as these, I am very optimistic about the future of Wake County and our country.
Amy Page Smith