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N.C. County School Board Ends Diversity Policy

RALEIGH N.C. â€“ A North Carolina school district once considered a model for diversifying its classrooms ended its busing policy Tuesday in favor of keeping students in schools close to their homes.

The final, official vote by the Wake County school board was expected and followed a similar decision made at a far more contentious meeting in March.

Still, Tuesday’s meeting drew more than 100 people, and more than a dozen residents made speeches in a last-ditch effort to sway the board’s majority.

Many said they feared the shift to community-based schools would segregate students and create a large disparity in quality.

Since 2000, the district has bused students to and from various communities to diversify its schools along socio-economic lines. A change in the makeup of the school board led to the 5-4 vote Tuesday.

Supporters of the change have argued that community-based schools would refocus families on the schools in their neighborhoods. The board has up to 15 months to decide the new student assignment zones.

State NAACP president William Barber alleged the change is unconstitutional. He said the NAACP would consider filing federal civil rights complaints.

“There were a lot of roadblocks to get us where we are,” Barber said. “Where we are is not perfect. Like we said, diversity doesn’t solve all problems, but diversity is a key component of school excellence.”

In December, the NAACP filed a civil rights complaint with the federal Justice and Education departments against Wayne County for what the organization called a deliberate resegregation of that district’s schools. Barber said Wayne County policies resulting in lower graduation and higher suspension rates of black students. The NAACP could pursue similar litigation in Wake County, he said.

Wake County had been viewed as a model for other districts because its diversity policy helped integrate schools using socio-economic factors instead of race, said Danielle Holley-Walker, an associate professor of law at the University of South Carolina who has researched school integration in the South.

“Without model programs like Wake County, other school districts would not know what to do,” she said.

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