Vigil Held to Protest Changes to Wake County Diversity Policy

With the 5-4 majority held on Tues., March 23, the newly elected Wake County School Board passed a vote to end a diversity policy that has been implemented for over 30 years in favor of neighborhood schooling.

Over the past decade, Wake County has been nationally recognized for diversifying its schools by busing students out of their neighborhood zones, and using magnet schools to attract suburban children to struggling inner-city communities.

Then, by calculating the number of students on government lunch programs, the school board set consequences for any school where at least 40 percent of students received free or reduced-price lunches.

Now, schools will be divided into separate community zones, each with year-round and magnet school options.

Some opponents of the new majority vote are afraid that with these “zones” we may risk “re-segregating” students.

Before the board’s decision, a candlelight vigil service was held at Martin Street Baptist Church.

The small church in downtown Raleigh was packed with 500 attendees of different faiths, united in opposition of the new decision.

Speakers included various members of the clergy including Nancy Petty of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, who stressed that the new school board was “harming the integrity of a shared community.”

“This is a time for coming together, loving together, living together, and learning together,” announced Rabbi Eric Solomon of Beth Meyer Synagogue.

During the service, NAACP President Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, received the first standing applause of the evening when he said “We must be one in this struggle. For us in the NAACP, this is a national issue because I don’t know if they’ve forgotten, but Brown v. Board is still the law of the land.”

Barber was referring to the famous Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of education which overturned segregation in schools in 1954.

In Brown v. Board, it was argued that school segregation violates the 14th amendment because it does not give students “equal protection of the laws.”

“It annoys me that people think that the new decision is going to re-segregate schools,” said Georgia Lee, junior.

“My mom came home from a school board meeting crying because people were so hateful about this new decision. People just need to give the new school board a chance,” she said.

Ana Lazzo, junior, described the decision as “appalling.”

As newly elected Miss Latina Carolina, Lazzo has experienced the benefits of busing first hand. “I do a lot of community service with lower income communities of Hispanics, and I see how much these communities advance when they’re around people of other cultures, and many times, the only time that can happen is during school.”

Many people are afraid that the new “zones” that would be implemented by the school board will become like Charlotte Mecklenburg Zones that are infamous for harming the graduation rates of many schools across the county.

“I’m fine with neighborhood schools,” said Kate Eckerd, junior. “The people bringing diversity many times do not take the opportunity this school gives to them. They’re pretty much just using up our tax dollars to fail, which is just unnecessary,” she said.

With many students on both sides of the issue, some students do not have an opinion.

“I don’t care,” said Brooks Jordan, sophomore. “The school board never listens to us anyway, I mean, I’ve only got two years left, so, I’m out of here before anyone can destroy my education.”

No matter what side of the issue, most people can agree that perhaps the issue was too rushed.

“I just think that if so many people were disagreeing across the county and there was so much grief over the issue, they shouldn’t have rushed so much,” said Burke.

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