Talks break down in NAACP school discrimination suit

Tuesday, December 22, 2009 at 3:26pm

Lawyers have failed to reach an out-of-court settlement in the NAACP-backed lawsuit accusing the Metro school board of discriminating against black children by ending the last vestige of cross-town busing in the city this year.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are preparing to notify U.S. District Judge John Nixon that settlement talks did not produce any result, according to sources close to the case.

Nixon concluded a three-week hearing last month by urging the two sides to reach an agreement. Metro’s lead attorney in the case, Kevin Klein, did not return a phone call for comment.

Walter Searcy, chairman of the NAACP’s legal redress committee, is accusing Metro of failing to negotiate seriously.

“You can say that it appears that Metro was being less than forthcoming in their efforts,” Searcy said. “It really didn’t appear that settlement talks actually ever got off the ground. We’re disappointed by that. We think the judge’s strong suggestion was fairly clear, but we never could really get them off of square one.”

The lawsuit seeks to overturn the school board’s new student assignment plan, which stopped the mandatory busing of black children from north Nashville to Hillwood. The NAACP contends the plan resegregates schools and consigns black children to substandard educations in high-poverty, crime-ridden neighborhoods.

In last month’s federal hearings, board members took the witness stand to defend themselves, denying their goal was to rid the white suburbs of low-income black children. They insisted that the plan is meant to provide choice while keeping community resources within each neighborhood. The plan allows north Nashville’s parents to choose whether to send their children to schools in Hillwood or closer to home.

In settlement talks, sources say the plaintiffs wanted Metro to convert four high schools in lower-income neighborhoods — Pearl-Cohn, Maplewood, Antioch and Glencliff — into magnet schools in the hopes of attracting more white, middle-class children. In addition, the plaintiffs sought higher pay — as much as 25 percent — for teachers who choose to work in schools in neighborhoods with the worst poverty.

Metro’s lawyers rejected both of those key demands. But in a confidential document obtained by The City Paper, Metro agreed to pursue federal grants to start new magnet schools and to study “alternative pay structures” for teachers. They also agreed to create “theme-based academies” at Pearl-Cohn, Stratford and Maplewood and to waive the city’s costs in defending against the lawsuit if the plaintiffs accepted their terms. If the plaintiffs lose this lawsuit, Metro could try to recover their tens of thousands of dollars in costs from them.

In addition, Metro demanded that the plaintiffs withdraw their claims that the school board acted in a discriminatory way in adopting the rezoning plan.

“Moreover,” the lawyers wrote, “plaintiffs and their counsel withdraw the assertion that MNPS or any individual defendant stated, or harbors the belief that students of a particular ethnic group cannot be educated to high national standards.”

That’s apparently a reference to an allegation in the plaintiffs’ complaint that school board chairman David Fox advocated segregation in community meetings. In their complaint, the plaintiffs claim Fox said “more than once” that “African Americans cannot learn” and that they “are failing so the school board believes that they should separate and rezone” them to Pearl-Cohn schools. During last month’s court proceeding, no witness testified hearing Fox say that.

The two sides met only twice. Now that talks have ended, Nixon could rule as early as February.

16 Comments on this post:

By: josey wales on 12/22/09 at 3:42

I would think that the NAACP would want children to attend local schools and help builder stronger local communities instead of sending them across town. Has anyone asked what the parents want? What makes the NAACP the single voice of everything black?
the NAACP is in the business of never being satified. If they ever became satisfied they would no longer have a reason to exist.

By: stanpe on 12/22/09 at 3:46

People take this free speech too damn far. The first comment should be deleted because ignorance should not be celebrated! My area is your area dumbass!

By: bfra on 12/22/09 at 3:55

Send the naacp a bill for ALL cost and close the case! On second thought, close naacp, also!

By: frank brown on 12/22/09 at 4:04

If I were black I would vote against anything that the white community wanted. I can see clearly the situation. They did not want to be here in the first place and anything they can can do to show their displeasure is certainly forthcoming and forthright.

I wanted to be a point guard on my high school basketball team and the coach made me a wing. That was a lot of years ago and I am still mad.

By: ididntdoit on 12/22/09 at 6:38

It's not the parents at Hillwood that want the kids to go back to their own neighborhoods; it's the parents at Pearl that don't want them back in their own community. This is twisted around. It's not about's about class. It isn't even about quality of education; it's about property values!
And how racist of the "plaintiffs" to demand that middle-class white kids be sent to their community/magnet schools. Does that mean white kids are better or smarter or better-behaved than local kids? Or do you mean good teachers only want to teach well-behaved kids? Let's work on fixing the neighborhoods themselves, developing a real community that watches out for its own kids. This is the real root of the problem in public education: the small schools where your teachers know your parents are gone...they've been consolidated via busing!

By: Siobhanne on 12/23/09 at 12:57

Parents are responsible for their children's upbringing and education, not the government. If a family wants their child to be able to attend a school with better academic statistics & social situation, then I can't really blame them. Maplewood, Hunter's Lane and Stratford are in the same cluster. They are equally as bad; criminals, gang activity, baby daddies and baby mommas, and non-existant academics. Building stronger communities and improving local schools would be ideal but seems practically hopeless at this point. It is just alot easier to send one's chld somewhere else to escape all these distractions.

By: Schuss on 12/23/09 at 10:01

In a fiscal climate where the city is cutting budgets, the city shouldn't be spending the extra money to bus kids out of their neighborhoods.

If the NAACP doesn't like it, who cares? They should be spending their time and money improving "their" neighborhoods: On education to prevent "baby mamas and daddys", on changing the perception that being a "thug nasty pimp" is the right way to live, on parenting classes for the lazy parents that want to ship their kids to other neighborhoods rather than do some actual parenting.

By: Kosh III on 12/23/09 at 10:35

1. Did Metro actually spend the 5million they promised to spent to make the separate schools more equal?

2. February? Why so long?

By: busterhound333 on 12/23/09 at 11:22

i believe the NAACP are the ones thinking like a bunch of raciest.i cant believe here at this day and age that they(NAACP)still thinks like this.bus routs and school rezoning happens all the time to just seems that certain groups of black people think they deserve special treatment and shouldn't have to deal with these problems like the rest of us do and then play the race card if they dont get exactly what they want and this way of thinking and attitudes are nothing but the worst kind of raciest thinking and should be flat out ignored this crap has got to stop there are so much more important things we need to deal with in this country rather than wasting our time and resources on this kind of garbage

By: artsmart on 12/23/09 at 12:00

I believe Metro Schools is absolutely doomed to complete failure at this point. With all the individual groups grab for power I cannot figure out how they will ever recover. You have had the group on Bransford that for years has only concerned itself with what is in it for themselves. The Board, what a complete joke. You have schools that are a complete nightmare because it is PC incorrect to point out the real issues. You could not keep good teachers in these schools before and now you have the Governor, Mayor and Register with their new method of grading teachers. You will never keep good teachers in these schools now. You have the NAACP trying to stay relevant with this lawsuit. Last but not least is Register's new goals which have nothing to do with any of the goals set up for the teachers. There is no big picture think anywhere and at this point it is probably too late. Good job folks, keep up the good work.

By: Siobhanne on 12/23/09 at 12:49

A very good friend of my previously taught in Maplewood. She has not one but two master's degrees and 20 years experience in both public and private schools. She was at Maplewood for less than one semester. Her problem was not with pay or benefits, but the conditions under which she was expected to do her job. Truants: She took role in each class, but b/c there was no master role to compare it with, there was no effective way to tell who was supposed to be in her class to begin with. Go figure. When she asked one "gentleman" to take his seat and prepare for class she was thrown against the wall and held there by her neck. He threatened to shoot her. This was entirely believeable to her . Three kids in one of her classes are now serving time for a string armed robberies committed in the area. A girl in one of her classes was recently convicted of murder, by shooting three people in a convenience store. Until the NAACP begins to deal with these problems within the black community, there will be no real improvement in Metro Nashville Public Schools. Parents are responsible for the upbringing and education of their children. Until the NAACP encourages parents to teach their children right from wrong, the quality of schools will not change no matter how much money is thrown at them.

By: frank brown on 12/23/09 at 1:16

SIOBHANNE.....It would not surprise me that the NAACP has a leadership that identifies quite closely with the students mentioned in your article. The NAACP is not interested in the moral fabric of those they represent. Bill Cosby is the only black person who has spoken out against the criminal culture that exists within the black community.

By: bobo3355 on 12/24/09 at 9:20

the answer is simple. Metro should allow ALL students, regardless of age, to attend any school in Metropolitan Davidson county that they want.
The plaintiffs major complaint was that their daughter wasn't allow to attend a school out of their neighborhood, only because of her age. The age limitation should be changed.
Metro shouldn't give into any excessive demands that the NAACP requests.

The only problem is that the judge deciding the case is a liberal kook, so their's no telling what concessions he might stipulate.

By: pswindle on 12/24/09 at 3:43

Busing is yesterday's news. We need to build up neighborhood schools. It is not healthy for children to ride long distances.

By: Shuzilla on 12/24/09 at 4:30

"In settlement talks, sources say the plaintiffs wanted Metro to convert four high schools in lower-income neighborhoods — Pearl-Cohn, Maplewood, Antioch and Glencliff — into magnet schools in the hopes of attracting more white, middle-class children. In addition, the plaintiffs sought higher pay — as much as 25 percent — for teachers who choose to work in schools in neighborhoods with the worst poverty."

And there we have it. The Tennessean quoted an NAACP spokseman as saying Metro wasn't putting forth a serious compromise without saying what the Spurlocks were looking for. It appears instead from the above quote that the NAACP, through the Spurlocks, was looking for a take over of MNPS.

I guess if the choice is between an imperfect zoning plan by an elected body, drafted by a task force, and an imperfect desegregation plan by the courts, drafted by the NAACP, I'll have to go with keeping the current plan.

By: DustyU on 12/26/09 at 6:52

NAACP is still living in the sixties - Everything is the white man's fault for actively working to keep the blacks down. And the good old boy network of school board members plays right along with them, too busy protecting their neighborhoods to see the problems.
Also: Frank Brown said it right that Bill Cosby is the only prominent black willing to speak the truth that the black culture has become toxic to themselves.