Desegregation fight continues

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Gladys Acree says she is disappointed.

Forty-four years after she and others sued the Richmond County school system to force desegregation, she says local schools remain segregated.

"We've been segregated all my life, and we still are," Ms. Acree, 89, said Thursday, citing schools such as Lucy C. Laney and Josey high schools, where the student populations are almost entirely black.

Since 1972, Richmond County has operated under a federal court order resulting from the Acree v. Board of Education lawsuit. In recent months, some school board members have said it's time for the order to be lifted.

Other people, including Ms. Acree, don't agree.

"I don't think it's time for them to drop it until all schools are integrated," she said in an interview with The Chronicle .

Progress has been made, but not nearly enough to warrant ending the desegregation lawsuit, she said.

She's not alone. Eugene Hunt, a 1966 Laney graduate, said it takes time to reverse years of injustices.

"Regardless of why it is segregated, it is still segregated," Mr. Hunt said, hopeful a renewed effort by the school board will right wrongs. "The proof is in the pudding."

First step

In November, board members informally agreed to hire a consultant to audit the school system and determine what needs to be done to meet the requirements of the court order.

Board member Marion Barnes called the effort the most significant step taken in years to resolve the desegregation case.

The challenge will be changing the hearts and minds of those in the community, many say. Decades after the civil rights movement, feelings of bitterness and distrust remain strong.

"It's a trust issue because we haven't fixed it," Mr. Barnes said to explain the feelings among some in the black community. "If you haven't done it in 40 years, we don't trust you to do it in the next five."

Schools weren't equal back then, admits school board member Alex Howard.

"I think as a board we recognize we're going to move forward," he said. "If there are concerns we're not meeting, we're going to address them."

The school system has become majority minority: Its board is half black and half white, and the system is being led by its second black superintendent. But Mr. Barnes, a former school board president, said the desegregation order is still relevant.

"The point is that the courts said you will have this done and we haven't done it," he said.

Mr. Barnes is careful to point out that he doesn't support resolving the court case just to do so.

"I am not ready as an individual board member for us to come from out of this court order until this board does what it is supposed to do," he said.

Demographics

Board attorney Pete Fletcher is looking for someone to audit the school system. Mr. Fletcher said he and Ben Allen, the attorney for the plaintiffs, agree that only two issues remain: Ensuring equitable facilities for all students and making sure the demographics of nonteaching staff reflect the community. He said the same thing in 1999.

The school board is in the third phase of a building program funded by a special purpose local option sales tax. The program was begun to replace deteriorating facilities and ensure equitable schools for all children, Mr. Barnes said.

"I believe after this SPLOST we should be very, very, very close," he said. "I think we're about there with that."

Despite the progress made through the building program, perception remains a stumbling block.

"You can walk into a school and identify a school as white or black based on the people you see when you walk in," Mr. Barnes said. "That's just the way it's perceived."

Nonteaching personnel aren't racially representative of the community, which is what it will take to satisfy the courts.

Board member Frank Dolan is pushing for the case to be resolved, calling it a cloud hanging over Augusta that affects the city's ability to attract businesses.

One of his company's sister companies considered Augusta but passed on it because of the school system, Mr. Dolan said. Aiken County, which was never sued over desegregation, has several large industries.

"We should be drawing companies like no tomorrow," Mr. Dolan said.

The school board is being proactive for a change, Mr. Howard said, and everyone will benefit.

"It hurts everybody when jobs don't come to Augusta," he said. "The growth of Augusta depends on the economy, and the economy depends on big companies coming to Augusta."

Elsewhere

Columbia County also operates under a federal court order. Unlike Richmond County, which was sued by an individual plaintiff, Columbia County is among a group of school systems sued by the Justice Department.

Sandra Carraway, Columbia County's deputy superintendent of student support, said a Justice Department attorney contacted the school system this fall to request information and create movement toward resolving its case.

That information has been compiled and the county could be making headway to resolve its court order, Dr. Carraway said. There is also talk of all the Georgia school systems sued by the Justice Department jointly requesting to have their court orders lifted.

The department contacted Jefferson County, and it was granted "unitary status" in July. This means the school system met the requirements of the court order.

"I think we were working toward a common goal," Jefferson County school board attorney Franklin Edenfield said. "They were interested in closing out a lot of these cases that were not really active."

Reaching unitary status in Richmond County will prove much more difficult because of the size of the school system, Mr. Edenfield said.

"I wouldn't envy Pete (Fletcher) in any way because of the number of schools you're dealing with," he said.

Lift with caution

Among some, there is a fear that Richmond County schools will backslide if the court order is lifted.

Those fears, however, aren't supported by a 2007 report by the Georgia Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The committee conducted a statistical analysis of the state's 180 school systems and found no significant movement toward resegregating schools after court orders are resolved.

The report, however, comes with words of caution.

"Given the long and sad history of racial segregation in this state, readers of this report should not necessarily conclude that it is time to quickly eliminate all remaining vestiges of court jurisdiction in this matter without careful and prudent deliberation," it states.

Mr. Barnes said he is confident Richmond County can meet the requirements of the court order.

"Until people accept each other as human beings, we're going to have this, but it's getting there," he said. "We're going to get there."

'Strangest place'

Board member Venus Cain recalled growing up in California and watching the racial tensions of the South play out on TV with bewilderment.

She played with children of different races; why couldn't children in the South?

Mrs. Cain joined the Army and was eventually stationed at Fort Gordon.

"I have traveled all over the world, lived in other countries, other states, and Augusta is the strangest place in the world," she said. "It's like we're stuck in a time warp."

Racism and racial bickering are holding back the school system and the community, Mrs. Cain said.

"I'm going to do what I have to do to move the city forward," she said.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

ABOUT THE CASE

WHAT: Acree v. The County Board of Education of Richmond County


WHEN: The lawsuit was filed in 1964. Eight years later, in 1972, the U.S. District Court forced the school system to integrate.


WHO: The lead plaintiff was Robert Acree, whose father, Willie Acree Sr., allowed his son's name to be used on the legal action with about 15 other black community groups as a means to force integration. Willie Acree Sr. died in 1965, never getting to see the how the lawsuit changed the racial landscape of the Richmond County school system.

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iletuknow
7
Points
iletuknow 12/21/08 - 04:54 am
0
0
Sorry,all the whites slipped

Sorry,all the whites slipped out to Columbia Co before being properly intergrated. Now the minority outnumbers the majority.

PTHS225
1
Points
PTHS225 12/21/08 - 05:43 am
0
0
iletuknow - Thanks for

iletuknow - Thanks for posting that. I was trying to think of how to say it nicely.

elliottness
2
Points
elliottness 12/21/08 - 06:07 am
0
0
if you notice the location of

if you notice the location of these schools, where are they?right in the middle of predominantly black neighborhoods,so why wouldn't the student body be the same?

kat30815
14
Points
kat30815 12/21/08 - 06:24 am
0
0
I went to Hephzibah. In my

I went to Hephzibah. In my 10th grade year, I had a classmate who had went to Laney. They left Laney because of how few white students there were at the school. They were the only white student in all their classes of the day.
The fact that they were threatened and had their stuff stolen from them while at school didn't help matters either. Fix the kids/thugs before you cry about the integration problems that don't exist in the first place.

NANF
4
Points
NANF 12/21/08 - 07:03 am
0
0
Hey lady, get over it and

Hey lady, get over it and move on. Some folks thrive on looking back instead of ahead.

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 12/21/08 - 07:27 am
0
0
Doesn't the part of the black

Doesn't the part of the black community spoken of in this article segregate themselves by congregating in tight communities? Aren't the schools mentioned representative of these communities? Wouldn't the way to integrate these people into society be to stop encouraging their way of life with government subsidies? Wouldn't this put them in a position of having to get a job to live? Stop having babies they can't afford? Join society instead of whining that society won't continue to carry them? Yes, this section of society is segregated, but who chooses to be segregated? If actions you're taking don't improve your stead in life, change! The enabling government is keeping this part of society in chains. Let's free the segregated and allow them to move forward. It's time for tough love.

As It Is
2
Points
As It Is 12/21/08 - 07:43 am
0
0
Have you been inside of any

Have you been inside of any desegregated high school lately? You will see that most races (white, asian, chinese, japanese, indian, mexican, etc.) all seem to be mingling together at events and sitting together during lunch. Of course, you will also see a couple of black students within these areas as well. However, you will also see that the majority of black students have segregated theirselves at events, during lunch and even in classrooms. Delve further into the issue and you will find that the few black students mingling with everyone else are consideted to be modern day uncle toms. Doubt they care too much though because they are usually the students headed for greatness with better GPA and they are involved in positive activities within their school. The only race in America that continually seems to believe they are entitled are blacks. You rarely see any of the other races listed above (except many whites as well) sitting back and waiting on the government to take care of them as they get off their butts and take care of theirselves and make things happen vs. waiting on someone to do it for them. Desegregation sounds nice but equal opportunity is all that is needed

parrishrd
0
Points
parrishrd 12/21/08 - 08:10 am
0
0
It ia amazing that people are

It ia amazing that people are always so quick to judge. The article was about segregation in schools. This was a major issue that the residents of Augusta refused to address until there was a court order. These changes were not started by the good old boy southerners that lived in the area. As far as they were concerned, everything was fine. I was told by a coworker that the high schools were rezoned years ago, and the results were that a mojority of the children from the "Projects" were all sent to the same school. Do you think that was a mistake? The "White Flight" issue is nothing new. The problem with the school systrem is that a high majority of the schools are failing, regardless of what side of town you live in. My children go to Warren Rd. Elementary. Great school with a proven plan for success. A blessing in my mind. The next school for them is Tutt. All the middle schools are underacheivers in Augusta. there is no option to send them to another middle school. What are we doing about that? The article is so true. What person is going to move their company to Augusta when the school system is so bad.

k6opsdmm
0
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k6opsdmm 12/21/08 - 08:14 am
0
0
Why do 95% of all the

Why do 95% of all the problems in the news pertain to the African Americam population. when is this race as a whole going to step up and be productive. Enough is enough

formeraugres
0
Points
formeraugres 12/21/08 - 08:35 am
0
0
k6 - it will not be

k6 - it will not be productive until God takes control or until people get a personal relationship with Jesus.

justus4
99
Points
justus4 12/21/08 - 08:50 am
0
0
African-American men killed
Unpublished

African-American men killed by law enforcement, two shootings in less than two months and the Board thinks racial harmony exists, enough to lift the court order. The connection between the public's confidence in their government and school desegregation is central to lifting of the ban. It should be reinforced and not lifted, also federal dollars should be attached to progress and denied for violations. Thats the only path forward, because the honor system doesn't work. The conditions of the minority community and their belief that local government is effective demonstrates that the expected results has failed.

amazed1
0
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amazed1 12/21/08 - 09:02 am
0
0
People don't like to be

People don't like to be forced to do anything. Education is the only true way to solve the problems of intergration.

formeraugres
0
Points
formeraugres 12/21/08 - 09:03 am
0
0
justus4 - what make u think

justus4 - what make u think that fairness will be reached when only 23 percent of the world are self thinkers - it does not matter what level of education - slavery should have taught u that many in the world have a problem - I have tried over and over to understand how people could treat other so cruelly - the only answer is mentally illness.

_SisterAbdullahX_
3
Points
_SisterAbdullahX_ 12/21/08 - 09:06 am
0
0
justus4...why were the

justus4...why were the African American men killed by law enforcement? Was it because they were black, or was it because they tried to kill the cops? Had the 2 in question been white, they would, and should have been killed as well. You really need to get that chip off of your shoulder and stop defending bad behavior in the name of your skin color. You sir are part of the problem.

christian134
1
Points
christian134 12/21/08 - 09:06 am
0
0
Oh please Ms.

Oh please Ms. Gladys...Integration never worked...The grading scale has continued to slide since the beginning...If people are equal then they all must strive to achieve the highest one can possibly achieve without holding the educational system hostage...

soldout
1280
Points
soldout 12/21/08 - 09:10 am
0
0
Amen formeraugres. The

Amen formeraugres. The comments to this article are some of the best I have seen. Oh for a leader who would speak truth. Bill Cosby does and he is attacked. When opportunity is given and it is not taken advantage of then society should have no guilt. When the home is broke and full of sin don't expect model students or good schools. Every person has the right to succeed or self destruct. Sin in the camp will destroy any race. The only area where races unite is at the foot of the cross. Our country is great because of freedom, not diversity. It is normal for birds of a feather to flock together for strength and common interest and that is not sin; hating the other flock is where the sin begins. Wanting to achieve will always create segregation between the people who desire to get ahead and those who don't and it won't be a color thing. There are no people held back by the color of their skin but many held back by the darkness of their heart.

bone
23
Points
bone 12/21/08 - 09:15 am
0
0
i'm curious to see if obama

i'm curious to see if obama and his li'l friends attempt an end-run around the constitution to secure federal jurisdiction over public education once and for all. the fed does all in its power to now to use its tiny contribution (around 7%) of public school operating costs to make unfunded mandates; if obama can even slightly increase funding to public schools, i can almost imagine a day when the real estate market falls completely apart with news that there are no longer attendance zones for schools - obama sez you can go anywhere you want and gubment has to pay transportation. oh, the horror...

formeraugres
0
Points
formeraugres 12/21/08 - 09:16 am
0
0
li'l friends

li'l friends

nofrills
0
Points
nofrills 12/21/08 - 09:19 am
0
0
When I went to school the

When I went to school the school board had this crazy idea to bus in white students to Liberty City schools. They became our prey. If we wanted anything of theirs we took it one way or another. I watch just about every white kid get abused one way or another. Then they decided to bring in Puerto Ricans’ to our school and thus gangs were born. I don’t care what the federal government wants I am telling you it doesn’t work. I watched as parents would sell their houses and move away so their kids wasn’t picked on or robbed. Until the school board can control the halls at the schools and one or two officers patrolling the halls won’t do it. It’s never going to work. Until communities are getting along and setting the example then the schools will never be the same. Set the example. Be the example!

karmakills123
8
Points
karmakills123 12/21/08 - 09:47 am
0
0
So what you are saying

So what you are saying nofrills is that black kids automatically rob and bully white kids????....I believe you have answered the question...black people cause most of the problems in this city..black people cause most of the crime in this city ,..black people are the problem...like it or not that is the truth and it hurts nofrills just told you so.....but it is what it is and until the black people themselves develope a sense of right and wrong and teach their children how to be productive citizens nothing is going to change...and I am not even sure that anyone of them wants it to.

Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 12/21/08 - 09:55 am
0
0
Neither resegregation by

Neither resegregation by student race, nor the absence of equitable facilities for all students, nor overrepresentation by an ethnic group among the school system's nonprofessional staff is the most critical issue facing the RCSS. The most critical issue facing the Richmond County School System is the APATHY of most Richmond County residents, particularly those residents who are parents of children who are being denied first-rate educational opportunities because of the disruptive effects of a few of their classmates.

formeraugres
0
Points
formeraugres 12/21/08 - 10:03 am
0
0
Hey Karm - I am Black and

Hey Karm - I am Black and been around Whites all my life and never bullied anyone - I find it that poor kids - not all - but the ones that deeply resented their posistion in life bullied other kids - this bullying is a class thing - both very poor black and whites kids bully other kids - so do not say that its all black. Poor white people are just as bad if not worst than poor blacks. Did u see the movie Rosewood? Most of the Blacks in that city was killed because they had more than poor whites that resented them.

k

_SisterAbdullahX_
3
Points
_SisterAbdullahX_ 12/21/08 - 10:05 am
0
0
No one said it was ALL

No one said it was ALL blacks, but the numbers don't lie.

aintryt
189
Points
aintryt 12/21/08 - 10:06 am
0
0
I don't get it. I was bused

I don't get it. I was bused downtown to A.C. Griggs when I had schools within walking distance. My daughter was bused downtown to Levi White when she too had schools within walking distance. How was this not desegregation? She was scheduled to to Josey when she was within walking distane to Butler. We moved. The only thing I learned from getting bused downtown was street smarts and how to defend myself. Personally I think schools should be attended by the people who live around them and if you don't like the school then move to a school zone you do like.

Bored in GA
2
Points
Bored in GA 12/21/08 - 10:07 am
0
0
Go back to the neighborhood

Go back to the neighborhood school and because most subdivisions are both black and white it should not be a problem with integration or not! Kids like to go to school with whom they live around! Get over the black and white thing lady YALL WON!

Martinez
154
Points
Martinez 12/21/08 - 10:31 am
0
0
Forced desegregation doesn't

Forced desegregation doesn't work. RC is within the top 5 school districts in the nation with the largest acheivement gap between black and white students. One of the few districts with a higher gap has spent 30 years and at least a billion dollars busing students from one end of the county to the next to racially balance students proportionate with the demographics of the county. Students spend up to an hour on buses to go to schools 5, 10 even 15 miles from home, all while driving past a half dozen closer schools - all in the name of desegregation. While I do believe that the forced diversity may open the hearts and minds of SOME, many (white and black) just become more resentful over the experience of being bussed, seperated from their own neighbors and not living close enough to a school to really participate in extra activities. And the bottom line is students sitting in the same classroom, receiving the same instructions etc are still acheiving at grossly different levels.

ITDoc
1
Points
ITDoc 12/21/08 - 10:32 am
0
0
Education in America was

Education in America was ruined the first time the Government got involved. Look at the huge difference in success rates private vs public schools and try to tell me I'm wrong.

SargentMidTown
8
Points
SargentMidTown 12/21/08 - 10:32 am
0
0
The Federal government

The Federal government tactics and programs do not work. Let states work out their problems. Welfare, projects, section 8, school bussing have all helped to drag American society down.
No decent white or black people want their children to be around the kind of people who we saw on T.V. at the Cherry Crossing project. Class not colour is the issue now. Cream rises to the top. Turds sink to the bottom or float along stinking . Support www.hongkongaugustaga.org

formeraugres
0
Points
formeraugres 12/21/08 - 10:34 am
0
0
sis - u need a life - I know

sis - u need a life - I know that its a poverty issue.

justthefacts
20448
Points
justthefacts 12/21/08 - 10:35 am
0
0
Mrs Cain needs to get honest.

Mrs Cain needs to get honest. When she was in California, I guess she never checked the LA school system. How is "white flight" progressing in Compton there Ms Cain? Check out Detroit, Newark, Baltimore. This is not an Augusta problem!

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