Eleven years after winning release from desegregation decrees, Nashville's school officials are being dragged back into federal court beginning today to face accusations they're discriminating against black children. The issue is whether race was a consideration in the student assignment plan that went into effect this school year, and much of the city's white officialdom is on trial.
Attorneys for the NAACP have claimed that school board chairman David Fox openly advocated segregation in community meetings. They allege Fox said Nashville should "put African-American students back in north Nashville where they live."
Further, plaintiffs’ attorneys have claimed state Rep. Mike Turner used racial terms to urge support for the rezoning plan during a closed-door meeting with Chamber of Commerce and NAACP officials.
Specifically, they allege Turner said that "this rezoning plan will put the whites in their neighborhood schools and the blacks in their neighborhood schools, and everybody will be better off."
And was ousted school superintendent Pedro Garcia telling the truth in explosive memorandums made public last year in which he chronicled a secret white conspiracy involving the chamber and various board members to resegregate schools?
At last report, Garcia was vacillating about testifying, but the plaintiffs plan to present witnesses to tell the court what he told them about rezoning at the time. Plaintiffs’ attorneys have told The City Paper they will call witnesses who will claim they heard Fox's and Turner's remarks, which both men deny making.
In today's hearing, the NAACP is asking for class-action status which would mean hundreds of Nashville families could join the initial three who filed the suit.
The trial could last two weeks. The NAACP wants U.S. District Judge John Nixon to toss out the rezoning plan and order the school system to come up with a new one acceptable to both sides by next summer. Whatever the outcome, the trial will open wounds, with the city torn in two along racial lines over schools once again.