“Once upon a time there might have been a need for this kind of order,” Richmond County Superintendent Dr. Frank Roberson says.
Roberson isn't telling a fairy tale; he's talking about a dark chapter in Richmond County School's history, one that could be coming to a close.
“It's not necessary anymore,” he says of a decades old court order from Acree versus Richmond County Board of Education, that necessitated all BOE decisions to be approved by a US Court judge. “There's no need for it to exist any more, and I'm very proud of that.”
Even then, why go to federal court to lift a safeguard against segregation?
“To have that stigma attached suggests it cannot be the type of community it needs to be without being regulated by a court order,” Roberson says. And he insists that Richmond County can be that kind of community.
Today a judge demanded that arguments be made for why the case need remain opened; and the Board of Education found an unlikely ally for why it should be closed: The attorney who has represented the plaintiff for decades.
“It's one of those things I would fight for with the last breath in me,” attorney Ben Allen says. “It's important that all of us be recognized for what we bring to the table, not the color of our skin.”
But he doesn't believe he needs to fight anymore. Today the BOE attorney presented data about spending on books, buildings, and buses to drive home the point that Richmond County schools aren't segregated, and that no students are second-class.
“It reflects that we're trying to create for all of our children,” Roberson says, “all of our children, not just black children, not just white children.”
The judge has yet to rule, but when he does:
“It's huge, more than huge, bigger than huge,” Roberson says. “You can then walk boldly and say where you're from, and what system you're from and feel good about that.”