Concerned Citizens of Duplin County Files Civil Rights Complaint with the US Department of Education over School Facilities Plan

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On December 24, 2014, the Concerned Citizens of Duplin County (CCDC), a community-based organization focused on educational equity, diversity, and opportunity for children in Duplin County Schools (DCS), represented by the UNC Center for Civil Rights, filed a complaint (PDF) with the U.S. Department of Education under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The complaint states that the facilities plan adopted by the Duplin County Board of Education “will have a discriminatory impact on non-white DCS students, who will continue to be denied access to quality facilities, and who will be increasingly and disproportionately concentrated in racially segregated schools.” The complaint asks the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to investigate the claim and to stop the implementation of the proposed facilities plan.

On July 1, by a vote of 4-2, with the two African American members dissenting, the school board adopted its new facilities plan, which includes: expansion of B.F. Grady K-8, a new gym in North Duplin Junior/Senior High School, the closure of E.E. Smith, Warsaw and Charity Middle Schools, and the conversion of Kenansville Elementary, Warsaw Elementary, Rose Hill-Magnolia Elementary, and Wallace Elementary from K-5 to K-8. The estimated cost of implementing this plan is over $56 million dollars.

The CCDC complaint notes that the approved plan rejected decades of previous school facilities plans and reports, including a 2011 report from the School Planning Division at the state Department of Public Instruction (DPI). That report recommended -- as a priority for the district -- removing middle school students from all existing K-8 elementary schools and housing all middle school students in two centrally located facilities. DPI further emphasized that students should be divided into grades k through 5 for elementary, 6 through 8 for Middle and 9 through 12 for High School, and that the four high schools be combined into two, using the same boundaries established for the two new middle schools. The complaint asserts that the board’s refusal to follow the DPI recommendations was motivated by a desire to maintain a white majority in the East Duplin area schools.

The complaint states that when DCS needed new schools in the predominantly white East Duplin Attendance Area, two new schools (BF Grady and Beulaville) were constructed to serve that population, and a third (Chinquapin) was substantially expanded and renovated. Now however, when new facilities are needed to serve the majority non-white students who attend or would attend Warsaw, E.E. Smith, and Charity, instead of building new schools, these students will be put into retrofitted elementary school facilities, many of which already suffer from aging and outdated infrastructure.

The complaint also asserts that adopted facilities plan results in the closing of two of the six (33%) racially balanced schools in the district, and that following implementation, 50% of the schools in the district will be severely racially imbalanced (greater than 20% deviation from the overall district demographics). The adopted facilities plan will also increase the number of students attending racially imbalance schools. These students will never be afforded the diverse educational environment that a consolidated middle school plan, like the one recommended by DPI but rejected by the board, would provide.

To learn more about the Title VI complaint and to share your experience with Duplin County Schools, please join the Concerned Citizens of Duplin County for a community meeting on January 29, at 6:30 pm at the RASS Office Building, 206 N. Front St., Warsaw.

Posted by Jennifer Watson Marsh on Thu. January 22, 2015 11:05 AM
Categories: Education, Race Discrimination, Segregation
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