Thursday, January 11, 2007

Historic Hearing Today on Bibb School Desegregation Order

There's a little bit of history being made over that the Bootle Federal Court building in Macon today. In the courtroom of Judge Duross Fitzpatrick, a hearing is being held to determine what steps the school system has taken to desegregate Bibb schools in the thirty years since the Federal Court got involved and the M to M transfer policy, as an alternative to mass busing, was implemented. Per Judge Fitzpatrick's ruling last year, the school system no longer utilizes the M to M system, and at the 2 pm hearing today, the plaintiffs and the school system will have the opportunity to present testimony to the court. It is my understanding that Judge Fitzpatrick, in his original ruling, left this case open for a year to see how things went and to have the opportunity for public input. Ultimately, the school system is all but certain to come out from under the deseg order.

I find the ironies of this situation almost too many to count. This hearing is happening in a building named for the Judge who was instrumental in causing schools to become desegregated in Bibb County, and the current hearing and, even the initial ruling of the court, barely caused a ripple. The M to M policy was working poorly in Bibb because it was not subject to any capacity issues, so many parents favored this change. The school system is now majority black, yet this is not a reflection of the demographics of the community. Today, we struggle to fund and make successful a public education system (from which both of my children graduated) that increasingly must deal with the impact of poverty and what the Telegraph a number of years ago dubbed "white flight." In many ways the challenges now are greater than they were thirty years ago.

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