Feds to visit Robertson schools after segregation claims - WKRN News 2

Federal agents to visit Robertson schools after segregation claims

Posted: Updated: March 4, 2013 07:22 PM
ROBERTSON COUNTY, Tenn. -

Are an overwhelming number of minority students in Robertson County zoned for one cluster around the city of Springfield?

That's one of the questions a team of investigators from the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education hope to answer this week during a visit to schools and with educators.

At issue is the county's desegregation plan which dates back to the early 1970s.

"Ninety-seven percent of the minority students in Robertson County are zoned for just the Springfield cluster," former county commissioner Raymond Francis explained. "I discovered this when I was on the commission and tried to do something about it."

The county, which has 11,000 students, has four other high schools in addition to Springfield.

Francis, who ran unsuccessfully for Robertson County Mayor in 2010, told Nashville's News 2 he first called the U.S. Justice Department about the issue in 2009.

Since then Francis said he has been in contact with Washington officials about the county school's desegregation plan.

Last week, a U.S. Department of Education spokesperson confirmed that the U.S. Justice and Education departments "are conducting a joint investigation of a complaint alleging that the Robertson County School District's student assignment policies, in combination with the location of new facilities, create racially identifiable schools. The complaint also alleges the district discriminates in faculty and staff assignments."

The school district has been aware of the complaint since 2010, and was made aware of this week's visit from the Washington investigators in a January 24 letter to the school district's attorney.

The Robertson County Schools director acknowledges most of the county minorities are low-income families in Springfield, where jobs and housing brought them there, but they are not kept there by a zoning plan.

"To suggest that we have intentionally created this pattern is preposterous," Dan Whitlow told News 2 Monday.

He welcomes the visit this week from federal investigators.

"We are tickled to see them coming, we have not had the opportunity to say this is what reality is here," Whitlow added.

Along with the visit from the Washington investigators this week, a meeting for public input has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Robertson County Senior Center.

Whitlow said that if the Department of Justice has some ideas on how to improve their students and education, they are glad to listen.

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