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Judge lifts Richmond County school desegregation order

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 6:46 PM
Last updated Thursday, June 27, 2013 10:23 AM
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Decades after a former Richmond County superintendent said segregation must be maintained “at any cost,” a federal judge on Wednesday freed the school system from a 1972 desegregation order that forced integration and led to the racial equality in classrooms today.

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School rooms were mostly empty Feb. 14, 1972, as Richmond County parents participated in a boycott, protesting federally ordered school desegregation by busing. This Bungalow Road School classroom was typical of many throughout the school system.  FILE
FILE
School rooms were mostly empty Feb. 14, 1972, as Richmond County parents participated in a boycott, protesting federally ordered school desegregation by busing. This Bungalow Road School classroom was typical of many throughout the school system.

U.S. District Court Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. wrote the district is in “unitary status” for successfully correcting past ills and achieving desegregation in the student, teacher and staff populations; and facilities, activities and transportation.

Attorney Ben Allen, who in 1986 began representing the plaintiffs who brought the original case against the school system in 1964, said a world of progress has been made over the years and he is comfortable in moving forward without the order.

“It’s a good day for the Augusta education community,” Allen said. “I have to agree that the community has come together with one priority in mind: to provide a quality education for all its students.”

The case originated in 1964, when a group of activists led by 17-year-old Robert Acree sued the school system for blatantly ignoring the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case, declaring separate schools for blacks and whites was unconstitutional. Real progress was not made until 1972, when then-U.S. District Judge Alexander A. Lawrence issued a desegregation order that specified a plan for clustering schools and busing white and black children to learn together.

Acree, 66, said Wednesday that he was saddened to hear of the closing of the order, not because he believed it was possible for the schools to resegregate but because the order served as an oversight to ensure history did not repeat itself.

After Tuesday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that killed a component of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and made it so states no longer need federal approval to change voting procedures, Acree said he doesn’t want society to regress.

“I’m very, very sad that this happened,” said Acree, who now lives in Charlotte, N.C. “My prayers are with my hometown.”

Of the 109 Georgia school districts that came under desegregation orders decades ago, 75 remain under court order either because they have not met requirements or have not sought relief, according to a 2007 study commissioned by the Georgia Ad­vi­sory Com­mittee to the U.S. Com­mission on Civil Rights.

To have orders lifted, districts must show they have met six standards established from a landmark 1968 Green v. County School Board of New Kent County. The “Green Factors” specified schools must show desegregation in student, faculty and staff assignments; and transportation, extracurricular activities and facilities.

Before the case, districts across the South dragged their feet with “freedom of choice plans” that opened schools to all races but effectively maintained segregation without assisting in the transition.

In his ruling, Bowen pointed to evidence and testimony given during a June 17 hearing, where both Allen and board attorney Pete Fletcher said there was no need to continue the order. Bowen wrote the demographics of the system have flipped since the filing of the lawsuit, with black students now making up 75 percent of the district and whites accounting for 21 percent.

Each school is assigned an attendance zone based on a corresponding neighborhood planning unit that is not based on race.

In cases of race disproportion such as Glenn Hills High School, where 93 percent of students are black, Bowen said it is clear the shift can be attributed to changes in demographics rather than the effects of past segregation.

Today the district has a nondiscriminatory hiring system that relies on qualifications rather than race and has led to majority black administrators, teachers and staff.

Bowen went on to say buses assigned to neighborhoods are based solely on the size of the zone and needs of the campuses without any regard to the race of students or reputation of school. Further, with $450 million allocated to construction projects across the entire district since the late 1990s, improvements have been made to all schools regardless of the race of its students.

Fletcher said little will change in the daily functioning of the school system now that the order has been lifted. The only real effect will be seen in the magnet schools, which can no longer select students based on race.

The county’s three magnet schools, which were established after the 1972 order to attract white students to inner city schools, were required to maintain a racial balance while admitting students in the application process. Now students must be admitted based only on academics and the application or audition portion, Fletcher said.

With a chapter closed in the history of Richmond County and undeniable progress made, Acree said it is still important not to forget where the city came from to have achieved so much.

He recognizes the changes in Augusta’s classrooms and the hearts of its people.

“I am very, very proud of where Augusta has come from,” Acree said. “I know many things have happened in Augusta in the last 50 years. I just hope they don’t change now.”

KEY EVENTS

1954: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that “separate but equal” public schools were unconstitutional, opening doors for integration to begin. Fierce opposition led state leaders to stall and at times ignore the process. Before the 1959 gubernatorial election, Georgia Gov. Ernest Vandiver ran on the campaign slogan “No, not one,” meaning not one classroom would be integrated during his administration.

1964: Lead plaintiff Robert Acree files legal action against the Richmond County Board of Education with about 15 other black community members to force integration.

JULY 1964: The school board created a “freedom of choice” plan that opened the first through third grades to all students in the zones. Segregation effectively remained, with few families volunteering to change schools.

SEPTEMBER 1967: The Department of Health Education and Welfare declared the board’s freedom of choice plan was not sufficient.

1968: A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Green v. County School Board of New Kent County defined areas of school operation that districts must change to reflect true desegregation in order to achieve “unitary status.” The ruling expedited change, and the percentage of Southern black students attending integrated schools jumped from 32 percent in 1969 to 79 percent in 1971.

JULY 1970: U.S. District Judge Alexander Lawrence called for a court-appointed biracial committee to assist the school board in selecting white and black schools to cluster for attendance.

JANUARY 1972: Ruffin filed an amendment asking for implementation of a busing plan.

JANUARY 1972: With more progress needed for the desegregation of white and black schools, Lawrence issued a desegregation order, laying out a plan for the clustering of schools and busing of students between white and black schools.

FEBRUARY 1972: The first phase of the order was carried out to cluster seven schools in two groups. A countywide boycott kept 59 percent of children out of school.

1970S-1980S: Changes in student housing and zoning continued.

1999: It was the last year any student was transported differently for the purpose of meeting 1972 desegregation order.

JUNE 17, 2013: U.S. District Court Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. called a hearing to ask for evidence as to why the order should not be lifted.

JUNE 26, 2013: Bowen lifted the order and declared Richmond County unitary.

KEY PEOPLE

ROBERT ACREE: 17-year-old civil rights activist became lead plaintiff in the 1964 lawsuit filed against the school system.

JOHN H. RUFFIN JR.: Attorney who represented the plaintiffs. Ruffin served as lead attorney until 1986, when he was appointed to the Augusta Judicial Circuit Superior Court as its first black judge.

BENJAMIN ALLEN: Took over as attorney for plaintiffs from 1986 to present.

PETE FLETCHER: Represented the school board from 1972 to present. Fletcher’s predecessor, Franklin H. Pierce, represented the board when the lawsuit was filed in 1964 to 1972.

DUDLEY H. BOWEN JR.: U.S. District Court judge lifted the order and declared Richmond County unitary.

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seenitB4
85836
Points
seenitB4 06/26/13 - 06:57 pm
9
2
Hah

"Wednesday’s ruling said that today’s school system is finally unitary, or desegregated."
You would have to bus whites into the county for that to be true..

But many will be glad about this decision.

nocnoc
41486
Points
nocnoc 06/26/13 - 07:08 pm
8
2
It is amazing how some are crying DOOM

when in fact it is long long over due because it was no longer needed and has not been since even before 1988 consolidation attempts.

I am very happy say some local Reverends and Activists will have to find a new cause to get attention and $$$$. These are the types of people I am glad to see unemployed due to modernization.

Truth Matters
6635
Points
Truth Matters 06/26/13 - 07:15 pm
2
2
Question

@nocnoc
What does the statement mean re "new cause to get attention and $$$?"
Are some people getting paid? Who and by whom? I am not a native here and just want to know.

Pops
7844
Points
Pops 06/26/13 - 07:36 pm
3
8
All I know is

the school system in Richmond County is so much better off with the government regulation. I know I am not from around here and I don't know what all this is about but I am qualified being young and stupid to say that anyone who is happy about the government getting out of this lawsuit is racist.......I am, after all, young and cool......I like living downtown and I am hip.......test scores will nosedive after this.....

nocnoc
41486
Points
nocnoc 06/26/13 - 08:48 pm
7
0
Truth Matters

Glad to read your comment.

We have been lacking a good opposing view commenter for a while now since TechFan left us at least as "Techfan".☺

Regarding a Finding a New Cause and $$$$.
Recently a number of times when we have a Black person adversely in the news, it seem a there is a line of Reverends arguing whose turn it is to get up on the Court House steps and demand justice.

One of the latest examples is:
A Lawyer that kept a $8,000++ ring she found and never attempted to return it until her photo was made public. A clear violation of OCGA and since she was Practicing Criminal Lawyer, there a strong likelihood she knew she was it error. But it did not stop the old grab a reverend and have a court house steps protest drum up some racial distrust.

There are a number of other such recent events, but you get the jest of the idea.

I am sorry to said there in fact are people that make a living stirring up racial problems and make lots of $$$$ in the process. Jesse and Al both come quickly to mind, in this manner, and both have lost a major amount of credibility in the possess when their causes turned out to be lying or guilty.

Either way I welcome the comment,and feel free to challenge any remark I make and I'll do the same, when we disagree.

In case you don't know I am not a WASP, I am a Heinz 57.

Remember there is 1 major rule here it is civility.

nocnoc
41486
Points
nocnoc 06/26/13 - 09:02 pm
4
0
POPS I doubt that scores will nose dive.

If any thing the additional freedom that RCBOE now has will allow the test scores to improve.

BTW: have you looked at the Racial mix (6B/5W) of the RCBOE Board lately? Are saying our locally elected BOE would treat Blacks worse without Federal handcuffs?

https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/Index.aspx?S=4137
Board of Education Members
Mrs. Venus Cain Chair
Mrs. Helen Minchew Vice Chair
Mr. Jimmy Atkins Board Member
Mr. Marion E. Barnes Board Member
Ms. Eloise K. Curtis Board Member
Mr. Frank Dolan Board Member
Mr. Alex Howard Board Member
Mr. Jack Padgett Jr. Board Member
Mrs. Barbara Pulliam Board Member
Mrs. Patsy Y. Scott Board Member
Dr. Frank G. Roberson Superintendent

just an opinion
2500
Points
just an opinion 06/26/13 - 09:45 pm
5
0
What's the biggest problem in our schools ?

Wait, don't answer that. The battle is lost. We give up. You win. And we're gone. Good luck.

willie7
955
Points
willie7 06/26/13 - 09:54 pm
3
1
I commend Judge Bowen for
Unpublished

I commend Judge Bowen for lifting the desegration order. It will give the board and superintendent the opportunity to consecrate on the quality of education, the schools will provide.

burninater
9444
Points
burninater 06/27/13 - 12:30 am
1
5
Nocnoc, surely its just an

Nocnoc, surely its just an accident that you left AM talk radio and ideology-driven print and broadcast media out of your desciption of vultures gorging themselves rich off of controversy, right? You're just targeting black reverends on your way to including the other "victim" vultures, I'm sure.

In the interest of an open and honest assessment of the vultures in our society, we wouldn't want to solely focus on vultures of a certain ... plumage.

Riverman1
82451
Points
Riverman1 06/27/13 - 04:43 am
6
2
Effect on Magnet Schools

The effect on Richmond County magnet schools will be negative. If the schools are no longer required to accept 50% black students, I doubt the BOE will keep them open. The probability is the schools will become white by a large majority in a few years and the black members of the BOE and Dr. Roberson will not be in favor of funding such schools. Of course, the "talent competition" could be unfairly used as a means to get around the ruling and keep racial balance in the magnet schools.

seenitB4
85836
Points
seenitB4 06/27/13 - 05:54 am
7
0
Unbelievable madness

And with this...
With a chapter closed in the history of Richmond County and undeniable progress made, Acree said it is still important not to forget where the city came from to have achieved so much.

What did you achieve...please tell me...if you want to lose 85% of the white population in a county just continue on with this nonesense...
What they won't say is that it DID NOT work...but it sure did make other counties pop with real estate deals..

Btw...I lived through this madness in the 70s...I don't have time to tell you the negatives it created for my family..

sugarbutton
821
Points
sugarbutton 06/27/13 - 06:35 am
4
0
I'm so blessed and thankful

I'm so blessed and thankful that God does not segregate us by our skin color or financial ability to go to a world where there is no prejudice and hate when we die. I was born in the 50's and I've seen it for many years. My husband and I have adopted a little boy whose father was black and his birth mother is white. He's smart, handsome and loving and some people will still look at us and make comments about us having him. For the most part, it's civil because I don't tolerate it....to my face anyway. I just say...YES, he's our son and no he's not a blood relative and of course, we would take this child who needed parents to love him...no matter the color. He is our son. God put him in our lives and all the hate in the world won't take him away from us. Will our country ever settle down? I pray so.

seenitB4
85836
Points
seenitB4 06/27/13 - 06:40 am
5
0
sugarbutton

I applaud you for what you have done....I certainly think you have shown grace & love to a child...

My problem is force feeding gov decisions that have a negative outcome on me or anyone else.

rmwhitley
5542
Points
rmwhitley 06/27/13 - 07:30 am
1
0
Congratulations!
Unpublished

Richmond county, you're one step closer to freedom.

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 06/27/13 - 07:51 am
1
0
The Judge has broken the chains of oppression.....Hallelujah
Unpublished

Hallelujah! Free at last. Free at last. NOT

nocnoc
41486
Points
nocnoc 06/27/13 - 08:40 am
3
0
burninater - Good Point

But why give him free media exposure, when he has a show to not talk about talking about himself.

Jon Lester
2285
Points
Jon Lester 06/27/13 - 09:42 am
2
1
I'm much more interested in the schools having a good curriculum

than trying to balance the demographics in every classroom, which is just not possible. Equal standards for all.

Cynthia Gartrell
4
Points
Cynthia Gartrell 06/27/13 - 11:05 am
2
0
Alot has changed over the

Alot has changed over the years, children now have the choice to go to whatever school they want as long as they can provide their own transportation. Nobody needs to even bring up race as an issue anymore. It's all about individual people now. Education is the most important thing for our kids right now, too many young people are going down the wrong path and killing eachother and ending up in prison. If the school system wants to seperate students, they should put the girls in one school and the boys in another. And a law needs to go into effect to get rid of facebook. I have seen too many of our kids get killed over that bs.

Truth Matters
6635
Points
Truth Matters 06/27/13 - 11:14 am
3
0
Ministers to the defense

@nocnoc
I think the situation of ministers "lining up" is more cultural because for so long they played a dual role as social and spiritual advisor/leader/(pick your synonym) in the minority community.

But hey, I will bet Paula Deen appreciates the Black minister in Savannah who has come to her defense, as he well should if he is in a position to shed light on her character as he sees it.

I still don't see the $$$ connection unless I misunderstood what you meant. You can have the last word on that.

griff6035
3955
Points
griff6035 06/27/13 - 11:20 am
2
1
Desegregation

Did not improve students test scores, so what good did it really do?

internationallyunknown
4059
Points
internationallyunknown 06/27/13 - 11:41 am
1
0
Believe it or not, but...

Desegregation was not good for black people.

Little Lamb
45398
Points
Little Lamb 06/27/13 - 11:54 am
1
0
Zoning

Cynthia Gartrell posted:

. . . children now have the choice to go to whatever school they want as long as they can provide their own transportation.

That is true if they are going to private schools, but that takes money.

If the child wants to go to a public school, they are forced to use the public school system where they reside (if the parents/guardians are honest about the address). For example, if you live in the East Boundary area, you cannot go to a Beech Island school. If you live on Jackson Road you cannot go to a Columbia County school.

Then, once consigned to a particular school system, you are stuck to going to the school zoned for your particular address. That is, if you live in Montclair, you must go to Westside High School and not Butler.

The magnet school selection criteria in Richmond County make the matter a little more complicated, but that's a minor hurdle. I think RM’s concern about the magnet schools becoming radically changed as a result of Judge Bowen's ruling is unfounded, but we'll just have to wait and see.

rebellious
20630
Points
rebellious 06/27/13 - 11:56 am
2
0
Ben Allen

at one time the number I heard paid to Mr Allen was $30,000 per year. 1986 thru 2013 is 27 years @ $30,000 per = $810,000

One big reason this wasn't dismissed years ago, I am betting.

Sweet son
10117
Points
Sweet son 06/27/13 - 11:59 am
2
0
Does this mean a reduction in force at the School Board and

at the Department of Justice. It would be neat to know how many total employees at the local and federal level are involved in the "management" of this situation. Salary money back in the pot? Not likely!

rebellious
20630
Points
rebellious 06/27/13 - 12:00 pm
2
0
Rezoning

Insiders have told me part of the gang problem results from having to split neighborhoods to satisfy the court order. In doing this, members of opposing gangs are put in the same schools and battle over "turf". Maybe this ruling will allow Richmond County to get back to the concept of neighborhood schools and avoid these conflicts. Heck, it might even save some transportation costs.

Fiat_Lux
15146
Points
Fiat_Lux 06/27/13 - 02:35 pm
4
0
Re: 11:41am comment

I agree that has been the case in some ways, but not the case in far more ways--equal housing access and non-discrimination in employment and pay scales, etc.

My mother, the science department head, was the only white face in a Savannah junior high school during the late 1960s up until forced desegregation overwhelmed the Chatham County school system in 1970-71.

That action by the DOJ destroyed that little neighborhood school. Even though the majority of the students came from working class, or poor and often single parent homes, the parents and grandparents knew the staff and most were on board with their children's schooling to at least some extent. The problems that happened at Hubert were no different and no more frequent than they were at Wilder Jr. High, an all white school in "better Savannah", back in the 1960s.

After desegregation hit, the Hubert students were shipped off to white neighborhoods and endured terrible harassment, even though their numbers were quite large. And alarming numbers of Wilder students turned into unbelievably obnoxious, disrespectful little delinquents when confronted with black teachers at shabby schools in shabbier neighborhoods.

There hardly could have been a more counterproductive, even destructive plan forced onto a community. In fact, it destroyed very old, very stable communities in the Savannah area, and those communities probably were what held back the tide of drugs and gangs for so many decades. Who knows what we all might have been spared and how much better public education now might be had a different tack been taken back then.

It might have taken a little longer for some aspects of its implementation, but having desegregation start with each new class of first graders for at least six to eight years would have accomplished the desired end without largely destroying public education and parental/neighborhood involvement in the process.

Lots of people in the South were calling for that kind of implementation process, but even back then those libtard yankees thought they knew everything.

seenitB4
85836
Points
seenitB4 06/27/13 - 03:06 pm
3
0
Fiat everyday you amaze me

THAT POST made more sense than any I have read in months.....that plan probably would have worked...start at 1 level & let it work itself through...instead whole neighborhoods were turned upside down & yes. ..the children went from well behaved to little monsters at times.....they were miserable in the assigned schools & it only got worse from there.

seenitB4
85836
Points
seenitB4 06/27/13 - 03:16 pm
3
0
I just thought of something

With this..

Lots of people in the South were calling for that kind of implementation process, but even back then those libtard yankees thought they knew everything.

THAT is exactly what is wrong with the P Deen ordeal...the northern part of our nation sees this as a horrific misdeed...while the southern sees it as something that can be undone....we know the south...even the black ministers in Sav know the heart is not the same as the mouthings....& some from years ago thought they were endearing words to call helpers nicknames & such....a different world from north to south....

bigj706
1128
Points
bigj706 06/27/13 - 06:41 pm
1
0
Good point Seenit. How are

Good point Seenit. How are you today?

seenitB4
85836
Points
seenitB4 06/27/13 - 07:16 pm
2
0
Hi 706

I'm tired & ready o eat some watermelon & then get ready for tv & bed...

Thanks though...once Fiat posted that ..I knew that plan would have been the best one...too dang bad we didn't have some smart folks on board at that time to actually implement the plan.....it seems the south has been jerked around for too long now....it is about time we took control of our future......the first thing we have to do is dislocate ourselves from the national know nothing media..

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