Attorneys in the lawsuit against the city’s new student assignment plan say they will accuse school board chairman David Fox of openly advocating resegregation during community meetings last year.
A two-week trial in the NAACP-backed lawsuit is scheduled to begin Tuesday before federal Judge John Nixon.
Attorney Allen Woods, who represents families suing the school board, says witnesses will testify about public comments Fox made about the rezoning plan. The lawsuit seeks to toss out the plan, which ended the busing of black children from north Nashville to Hillwood and Hillsboro this school year.
“Chairman Fox clearly said that was the intent of the plan, to put African American students back in north Nashville where they live,” Woods says. “He identified students by race. We’ve got at least three witnesses to those meetings who are ready to testify as to what he said.”
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.
Fox, who would not comment Wednesday to the City Paper about the lawsuit, did deny the accusations in an affidavit filed with the court. “For the record,” he says, “I have never made such a statement, and I affirmatively state that this was not the motivation or intent of the rezoning plan.”
Also in a statement at a board meeting in September, Fox said, “Our student assignment plan is not discriminatory and the lawsuit that has been filed in federal court is meritless.”
The NAACP says the plan rolls back decades of racial progress and dooms the city's poor, black children to a substandard education in segregated schools. To win their case, attorneys say they need to prove only that race was one of the factors in the school board’s decision to rezone students.
But at an initial hearing in the case in September, Metro attorney Kevin Klein contended the plan gives poor children from predominantly black sections of the city the opportunity to succeed in neighborhood schools.
Klein pointed out the school board voted to spend an additional $5 million a year to improve schools in north Nashville.
“This is Metro Nashville’s chance to take at-risk students and give them an opportunity to succeed,” Klein said, “but we’ve got to give it time, and we’ve got to stop pretending that busing students is the solution.”