- Valdosta, Ga. - March 12, 2012 -
The U.S. Department of Justice is pushing the Valdosta City School System to comply with a 40-year-old desegregation order.
The Superintendent says they are working frantically to do so. But the Southern Christian Leadership Conference questions its vigor if it's taken 40 years already.
To fix the 40-year-old lawsuit Valdosta City Schools is working to replace more black teachers with white until they fall into a certain ratio. But the SCLC says the consent order has simply been ignored until now.
Dr. Mark George is Chairman of Valdosta's Chapter of the SCLC.
He tells Eyewitness News reporter Greg Gullberg that the school system has violated its own hiring policies and proven to be willfully non-compliant with the consent order.
"And so that was one of the problems that slowed this process down is that it's clear that Dr. Cason and Ms. Mason weren't doing what they were supposed to do by posting positions when they came open so everybody in the system as well as people outside of the system could apply for them. So to omit that fact and simply say it takes the Department of Justice a long time to respond is a little inaccurate to say the least," said Dr. Mark George.
But in a recent interview, Valdosta City Schools Superintendent Dr. Bill Cason told Gullberg desegregation is a top priority.
"We've worked diligently over the past few years to make sure we get out from under this court order because it is a burden for the teachers," said Dr. Cason
Dr. Cason says the order had fallen by the wayside for years but now it's almost fixed. He says there is only one school that's still out of ratio: J.L. Newburn Middle School. He plans to have it done by next school year.
The Department of Justice is not ordering black teachers to be fired.
They're working to move teachers around to different schools and fill new openings with the proper race until the appropriate ratio is met.
The Justice Department requires the ratio of white and black teachers at every school to fall within 20% of each other.
- Valdosta, Ga. - Feb. 29, 2012 -
The Valdosta City School System is working frantically to replace more black teachers with white.
It's a federal order from the Department of Justice in a 40 year old lawsuit. The consent order demands VCS to replace more black teachers with white teachers to even out the ratio and correct a racial disparity.
Superintendent Dr. Bill Cason tells Eyewitness News reporter Greg Gullberg that it's easier said than done.
"We've worked diligently over the past few years to make sure we get out from under this court order because it is a burden for the teachers," Cason said.
The Justice Department is enforcing a 40 year old lawsuit to protect racial equality of school teachers. VCS is making progress, they used to have several schools in violation, but today only one middle school is out of ratio.
At J.L. Newbern Middle School five black teachers still have to be replaced with white to meet racial requirements.
Human Resources Director Sheila Mason explains how they are working to correct that.
"We'll continue what we're doing. We're in a panel interview process at our central office and we interview here on a panel and our applicants are sent to the school where they are best fitted," Mason tells Gullberg.
But some parents like Mara Wildes say the race of their child's teacher doesn't make a difference.
"I don't care if my kid's teachers are black or white. I just want them to have a good education," Wildes tells Gullberg.
The school system was first ordered to desegregate in a federal lawsuit dating back to 1971. It stems from enforcement of the Equal Protection Clause and Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Ever since, VCS has been working to get out of violation of that order with varying degrees of zealousness. But in the past few years Dr. Cason has made it a high priority. He says it will be over soon.
"We can certainly do that this up coming school term," Dr. Cason tells Gullberg.
The DOJ is adamant that racial disparity in the classroom only hurts the kids. But the irony is usually when you hear about this problem it's in reverse and there aren't enough black teachers to go around.
The Justice Department requires the ratio of white and black teachers to fall within 20 percent of each other.