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NAACP Sues Nebraska Over Law Dividing Omaha Schools Into Racially Identifiable Districts

The NAACP sued Nebraska’s governor and a state committee Tuesday over a new law that divides Omaha Public Schools into three racially identifiable districts.

The law, passed by the Legislature at the end of its recent session, splits the Omaha district starting in 2008 into three districts: one mostly Black, one largely Hispanic and one predominantly White.

It was aimed at solving a dispute over school boundaries in the state’s largest city after Omaha Public Schools tried to take over some suburban schools.

The NAACP’s federal lawsuit says the new law violates the constitutional principals embodied in the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, which said separate but equal facilities have no place in public education.

“Segregation is morally wrong, regardless of who advocates it,” says Tommie Wilson of the Omaha chapter of the NAACP.

Supporters say the plan will give minorities control over their own school board and ensure that their children are not shortchanged.

State Sen. Ernie Chambers, the Legislature’s only Black senator and designer of the amendment dividing the districts, has long argued that the Omaha district was already segregated because it no longer bused students for integration purposes.

“The NAACP, in my opinion, jumped on this issue because billionaire Warren Buffett spoke against it without understanding it,” Chambers says.

Buffett, an Omaha native, and other local business leaders came out against the law as the Legislature was considering it.

The NAACP and Omaha Public Schools officials say the new law is short on funding and will do too little to promote integration and even hamper other efforts.

The NAACP wants the Legislature and Gov. Dave Heineman to come up with a workable alternative to the new law by January, says John Jackson, the national NAACP’s chief policy director.

Heineman, who signed the legislation, has said provisions of the law were subject to changes.

The 45,000-student Omaha school system is 46 percent White, 31 percent Black, 20 percent Hispanic and 3 percent Asian or American Indian.

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