Late Wednesday Judge Dudley Bowen handed down a historic ruling for the Richmond County Board of Education: He vacated a decades old order from Acree vs. Board of Education of Richmond County that required court supervision of all major district decisions, such as zoning, school closures, and student reassignments.
The suit alleged that Richmond County was not working to desegregate schools; the judge at the time said the Board of Education was “contemptuous and intransigent.”
Now, the court used six criteria to determine if the BOE has made a good faith effort to desegregate. Those criteria include student assignment, faculty assignment, staff assignment, transportation, extracurricular activities, and facilities.
To substantiate their case that Richmond County has met those criteria, school attorneys presented data and figures on things like buses, books, and building spending.
Superintendent Dr. Frank Roberson says this is a victory for the entire community.
“This is something that we're well beyond,” he says. “We're in a new place now, and you can walk boldly recognizing that you're in this business to benefit those that you served and you don't have that stigma attached, so you can walk down that road boldly now.”
His unlikely ally in court was attorney Ben Allen, who has represented the plaintiff in this case for decades. He says he would have “fought to [his] last breath” if necessary, but he no longer needs to.
“This is huge,” Allen says. “It says a lot about this community. It says even though we have a difference of opinion as to how to get from point A to point B, it says that when we get together and decide to do what is right for the children of this community, we can come together.”