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Forum set on decades old desegregation order for Florence schools

(WPDE)

A public forum is taking place Monday, September 25 at 7 p.m. at Savannah Grove Elementary School on a order mandating Florence School District One (FSD1) to desegregate its schools.

The U.S. Justice Department ordered the district in 1970 to implement a plan to desegregate its schools.

The Department evaluated the district's desegregation plan in 1996 and found that it didn't fully comply with its obligations under the 1970 and 1971 orders.

FSD1 then entered into a consent order with the U.S. Justice Department to make sure its schools are more racially balanced.

Back in April, FSD1 attorney Laurence McIntosh filed a petition asking the Department to dismiss the order.

The petition says "the time has come in 2017 for the Justice Department to take a fresh look at the status of Florence One and decide what, if any, additional remedies it would propose.

The petition says back in 1970 all of the district's schools were either 100 percent white or 100 percent black.

It says now 14 of the district's 20 schools are pretty much racially balanced, with the exception of six school that have 60 percent or more black students.

Those schools include; Lester Elementary, Wilson High, North Vista Elementary, Timrod Elementary , Savannah Grove Elementary and Williams Middle.

Rev. James Williams and Charles Fox with Lifeline Plus have attended school board meetings for the past 30 years.

Williams experienced the desegregation order himself in 1970, when his senior class was moved from Wilson High School, an all black school to then Southside High School, an all white school.

" I graduated in 1971. We were the first class that were forced to go to other schools to accomplish desegregation," said Williams.

Williams doesn't think the district has fully complied with the desegregation order.

"The sad thing is that I don't believe our district has in good faith ever worked toward integration. I think that we settle on desegregation and there is difference between the two," said Williams.

He added over the years FSD1 has strategically got around integrating schools.

"Historically black schools have been closed. And the students bused to historically white schools to try to make a numerical segregation. And that's what I call desegregation instead of integration. I don't know of any large populations of white children that are being bused to to help desegregate those historically black schools. The ones that had the predominately black populations were either closed in that period. And those children dispersed. The year after they closed that school the new carver population was almost 70 percent white. And that went from a 100 percent black population. And a lot of those students were not the original signees for the old Carver. A lot of those students were sent to Delmae. They were sent to McLaurin. And I understand that some of them were sent as far as Wallace Gregg.""

Williams said over the years, the district has built brand new schools on the west side of town.

He said, "You use the housing the you know. You use the middle class to kind of circumvent what you would consider to be a kind of undesirable element from coming in. So, we're doing the same thing with the schools. That's one of the issues that I really have a problem with. When we are at one point trying or suppose to be under an order that is ongoing for us to fully desegregate our district. Then at the same time we're building schools on teh very fringe of the district. Schools that are going to be much more difficult to ever desegregate. Much less integrate because the community that they're building them in is probably 90 percent, and I'm being modest, white."

Williams voiced his concerns to the Justice Department and asked it to carefully review the matter before making a decision.

He's hosting the forum on behalf of the Department to get more input from the community.

FSD1 released the following statement on the desegregation order:

"Since the early 1990's, Florence School District One has been under a court order by the US Justice Department brought on by a 1970 complaint outlining concerns about racial segregation in the school district. Since that time, Florence One has worked toward compliance with mandates of the order as it relates to school attendance boundaries, majority-to-minority transfer requests, staffing, racial makeup of student population in each school, and specific school programs. Because there have been no additional complaints to the Justice Department about Florence School District One's compliance with the order, Florence One's attorney who has worked with the Justice Department since 1970, deemed it appropriate to seek closure of the case based on Florence One's efforts to comply with the order over the past 20 years."

We've attached a copy of the consent order and the district's petition to have the order dismissed.

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