Public forum tackles issue of desegregating FSD1 schools

Public forum tackles issue of desegregating FSD1 schools

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) – Parents, alumni, school board members and community members of Florence School District 1 met Monday night to discuss desegregation in Florence School District 1 schools.

Desegregation is something many people might think was resolved decades ago. But some people don't see it that way.

Florence School District 1 was ordered by the United State Department of Justice in 1970 to desegregate its schools. In 1996, the Department of Justice said the district still hadn't completely complied with its order. Now, in 2017, the district is asking the Department of Justice to dismiss the case against them because the district says it has met all the requirements.

But some people in Florence don't think so.

James Williams is one of those people. He's the chairperson of Lifeline Plus, which organized the meeting Monday night.

He says the school district isn't doing everything it can to desegregate its schools. He's frustrated it's taken this long to get to where the district is.

"You would question why in 46 years we haven't finished this process," he said. "That stands to be a question that I'd like to ask. Why now? Why does it take 46 years?"

At Monday's meeting, a member of the Department of Justice was present. He was there to take notes and gather information to pass along.

People who spoke out in the public forum claimed the school district isn't taking steps to desegregate its schools.

They said the district isn't hiring enough African American teachers. They said the schools with mostly African American students don't have proper equipment.

The school district released the following statement regarding the matter.

"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."

Barry Townsend with the Florence School District 1 school board was at last night's meeting. He said he has heard all the complaints that were expressed Monday night.

"If I could say one thing to the people who live in Florence School District 1, it's come to the board meetings," Townsend said. "There's so much that does goes on that impacts everyone in the district."

Going forward, he says the school board won't take any action until the Department of Justice responds to what was heard at the meeting.

"I think the most important thing coming out of tonight is what the justice department heard and the questions that this will impact them," he said. "The questions that this will inspire them to ask."

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