Testimony: White parents used racial slurs in support of rezoning

Monday, November 9, 2009 at 1:30pm

Angry white parents in the Hillwood neighborhood made racist comments while pressuring a school board member to end the busing of north Nashville's children to their schools, according to testimony Monday in federal court.
Won Choi, a political activist, testified about his conversations with Alan Coverstone, a school board member representing Hillwood at the time. Choi said he tried to persuade Coverstone to support delaying a new student assignment plan stopping cross-town busing. But Coverstone said "that would mean that he would no longer be a board member, that he would be voted out," Choi testified.
"I asked him if the support for the student assignment plan was that strong in his district. And he said that I wouldn't believe the type of conversation that he has to have with his constituents, that on several occasions he would have angry constituents who would come up to him using the n-word and other derogatory terms about African-American students that had to be bused to the Hillwood cluster. And a large portion of his constituents felt very strongly that those students from north Nashville should be back in north Nashville," Choi said.
Coverstone was elected to replace Marsha Warden as Hillwood's representative on the school board in 2008 only weeks after the student rezoning plan was approved. In July,  he resigned to take a job with the district overseeing charter schools.
Choi also testified he talked with state Rep. Mike Turner, a Democrat from Old Hickory, about the rezoning plan. At the time, Choi was director of Tying Nashville Together, a group supporting public schools. Turner, chair of the state House Democrats' political caucus, was a member of the task force that recommended the plan.
"He at one point said that he believed that it was wrong to bus all those kids from the projects into the schools in the suburbs area," Choi testified. "As we were having this discussion, he became a little irritated and he said that at McGavock, where his daughter goes to school, that his daughter was assaulted by a black student from the projects and that this had bothered him quite a bit, and he said that he didn't believe that black kids from the projects should be bused into McGavock High School."
The trial of the NAACP-backed lawsuit is entering its second week before Judge John Nixon. The lawsuit asks Nixon to toss out the rezoning plan, which stopped the busing of hundreds of black children from north Nashville  to Hillwood's schools. To win, the plaintiffs must prove race was a motivating factor for the school board in adopting the plan.

31 Comments on this post:

By: Dragon on 11/9/09 at 1:56

Can you say "hearsay"?

By: frank brown on 11/9/09 at 2:00

I have known Judge John Nixon for years and years. I will give everyone a little advance notice. The rezoning plan will be tossed out. You can book it.

I feel the pain of the decent people in the Hillwood area but you either need to get a second job to finance public school education or you need to realize that your children are going to be subjected to a culture that is foreign to your value system.

If you have no problem with the culture shock then I see no reason for you to care one way or another whether this rezoning change is accepted or rejected.

By: Jokapsig on 11/9/09 at 2:16

It is wrong to use racial slurs. That being said, it seems these days that only white people are the only ones accused of slinging it. But is it ok for blacks to use the "n" word and other racist terms? This is a double-standard.

Busing children to fill racial quotas is wrong because it polarizes all neighborhoods. Personally, I'd like to see all Metro schools have the same quality and level of education, regardless of location. If it takes more money and quality teacher pay to help to build up these neighborhood schools, so be it.

Bring back neighborhood schools!

By: Dragon on 11/9/09 at 3:09

I'll wait until they put Coverstone and Turner under oath before I'll accept the word of a political activist (with a very strong agenda).

By: idgaf on 11/9/09 at 3:37

Nixon is retired and should not be used on cases like this. He is a liberal activist judge.

By: dogmrb on 11/9/09 at 6:03

Would you be concerned if he were a conservative activist judge?

By: sidneyames on 11/10/09 at 7:26

"I asked him if the support for the student assignment plan was that strong in his district. And he said that I wouldn't believe the type of conversation that he has to have with his constituents, that on several occasions he would have angry constituents who would come up to him using the n-word and other derogatory terms about African-American students that had to be bused to the Hillwood cluster. And a large portion of his constituents felt very strongly that those students from north Nashville should be back in north Nashville," Choi said.

I'm surprised that this passing on of supposed comments by parents to Coverstone is admissible. I thought that this type of testimony was hearsay. And Choi is dishing out dirt on Turner also. The he-said, she-said stuff can get distorted even by the best witnesses.

My concern is that students of any race are put on long, extended bus rides, arrive at their destination under stress and tired and have to try and put in 6 to 8 hours of study. Why not walk around the corner to school? Why not let it be convenient for parents to get off work all day (8 to 10 hours) and then dash around the corner to a meeting or gathering at your kid's school? I bet many a parent has stayed away from these types of meetings because they are dead dog tired, the drive is too long, it's dark early in winter, the weather is too bad or 5 a.m. comes too early.

We need to have logic prevail. Oh, I forgot. It's the gov-ment we're talking about. Sorry for the logical post guys and gals.

By: bfra on 11/10/09 at 7:36

Racial slurs are heard from vehicles, driven by blacks, with blaring radios more than any other place. Slurs against their own kind. Not just slurs, but with language no person, expecially children should be hearing!

By: NewYorker1 on 11/10/09 at 7:38

Wow! ADULTS using racial slurs to address CHILDREN. I am in the south. This has confirmed my decision to leave the United States. This country is sooo pathetic to me.

By: global_citizen on 11/10/09 at 8:07

So far we have Won Choi, a political activist, saying that Alan Coverstone said "this" about rezoning, and Mike Turner said "that" about rezoning.

Since when is hearsay even given minor consideration when it ought to be thrown out before it's heard?

This is ridiculous.

If Judge Nixon allowed such hearsay to go on record in court, you know he's already decided how he's going to rule. If this had been hearsay that favored the other side (the side Judge Nixon obviously disagrees with) it would have been shut down in a fraction of a second.

By: pandabear on 11/10/09 at 9:09


NewYorker1 believes hearsay.

bye bye and good riddance

By: artsmart on 11/10/09 at 9:11

newyorker 1:

You are kidding right. Every other word in NY is f this mf that. I always find it interesting that calling names has everyone upset, but Lawyers and Politicians would steal a dollar from their mother and that doesn't bother anyone.

By: Schuss on 11/10/09 at 9:23

NY1, need help moving, I have a truck...

By: NewYorker1 on 11/10/09 at 9:28

I'm moving to Paris where I can be among people with class and style.

By: Schuss on 11/10/09 at 9:36

The problem with Paris is that they're FRENCH! 1789 anyone, anyone?

By: JohnSevier on 11/10/09 at 9:37

As a consequence of busing, close to 30% of Nashville's children, most all of them white, moved to private schools. Busing was well-intentioned, and perhaps a necessary remedy to end de jure segregation. But it has resulted in the loss of public support for public schools. Historically, black parents could not move into traditionally white neighborhoods. That is no longer the case, and has not been for a long time. The "segregation" of schools today is economic, not racial.

If you want to understand these issues, you must start with that fact.

By: NewYorker1 on 11/10/09 at 9:51

I bet if I went to the homes of these people complaining about these children going to school in their neighborhood, I wouldn't find one item from Gucci, Prada, Fendi, Armani, or Versace. Their homes were probably not designed/decorated by an interior designer and landscape probably not done my a certified landscape architect. These people are more likely to be budget bitches and the kids should be glad they don't have to go to school in their neighborhood. I hope they use these racial slurs as reason to prosper and prove everybody wrong.

By: MetalMan on 11/10/09 at 10:34

Let's see, Won Choi was director of Tying Nashville Together, a left wing activist group. So how does that make his word believable?

And to NewYorker1: Delta's ready when you are. We were making in fine before you got here and we'll be fine when you're gone. Paris will be a good place for you. It's a lot like New York City: nasty, crime ridden, politically liberal, and rat infested.

By: Kosh III on 11/10/09 at 11:53

"or you need to realize that your children are going to be subjected to a culture that is foreign to your value system."
Does being different make it wrong? Isn't a quality education in part about learning about new and different things? Shouldn't learning about the values of ALL Americans be part of education?

By: house_of_pain on 11/10/09 at 12:05

Paris is pretty dirty. Crazy drivers, too.

By: xhexx on 11/10/09 at 12:07

Only liberals would think that the best way to fix education would be instead of fixing the poor performing schools and make the neighborhood kids want to go there, is to ruin good schools with busing. Yeah, that'll level the playing field. It's certainly easier.

By: Anna3 on 11/10/09 at 12:26

One thing that we all can put on the "Book It" list...is the complete abandonment of the Public Schools after this by the final remnants of those from the middle class. Why are we building or maintaining Public Schools in communities that do not want them nor will ever support them while spending millions to send kids across town to them??? What a failure of policy. Is there one liberal left to defend this crap? Apparently so...if we can't make schools in the minority community...lets just screw 'em all up...seems to be the liberal sentiment. Liberal experimentation with our kids have ruined generations of Americans when viewed against any academic standard. Can't we all learn to relate and learn to read at the same time? This whole thing is a collosal train wreck with nary a leader in sight. I blame the School Board...and I blame the Chamber of Commerce for its sheer stupidity.

By: frank brown on 11/10/09 at 1:23

New Yorker 1

You are probably right about the people complaining not having Gucci,Prada Fendi and Armani in their homes. The people in the Hillwood area that do have these name items have divorced themselves of the issue entirely. They have their children in Harding Academy,Harpeth Hall,Ensworth,Lipscomb,Christ Presbyterian,MBA,Hume Fogg,University School, Father Ryan ,Oak Hill and Franklin Road Academy.

Nashville Christian School would be a great academic environment for the people of Hillwood who do have have the items listed above. In fact home schooling would probably be better than subjecting your children to a "foreign culture"

By: dogmrb on 11/10/09 at 1:45

I love Nashville and my children received excellent educations in our public schools. I'm glad I don't think I know any of you whereever you live or are planning to live. Nashville is growing, changing and becoming more cosmopolitan but if you want Dixiecrat values, you don't have to go very far.

By: timman on 11/10/09 at 4:08

the simple solution would be to move all staff,books equipment ,etc from one school to the other.then the "povety students would be getting hillside education and hillside would be getting taught like the "getto kids"". If the education is the same there would be no problems.

By: frank brown on 11/10/09 at 4:16


I am young enough that I know the term "Dixiecrat" but I have no idea what a "Dixiecrat" really stood for. What I do know is that the children from an underclass enviroment do not have a value system that is compatible with the value system that I would want instilled in my children. I would call these honesty,trustworthiness,integrity, a sense of fair play,diligence,,pride and respect for themselves and other people.

By: dogmrb on 11/10/09 at 4:59

Well, that same attitude would have kept Booker T. Washington, Thurgood Marshall and a host of wonderful, contributing members of our society from having to interact with your children when they were students. Honesty, trustworthiness, integrity, sense of fair play,diligence, pride and respect for oneself and OTHERS, is equally distributed between those born of privilege and the "underclass". You probably haven't had the exposure to know different "classes" because our society and city have become more segregated by socio-economic "classes" rather than less.

By: frank brown on 11/10/09 at 5:11


In your haste to use race as a component of your argument you miss the entire point of my post. Booker T.Washington and Thurgood Marshall had every one of the components that I list above. Once these elements of worth are exposed to all you come in contact no one cares whether you are black,white yellow ,tall , thin or whether you are rich or poor. In the case of the busing situation that we have been discussing the issues are that these elements do not exist in many many of the underclass students. My goodness how I wish I had sat next to Booker T.Washington in any class that he had. I am sure that I would have learned a great deal just from listening.

By: abrahamlincoln on 11/10/09 at 9:59

racists, bigots you look down your nose at other poor working class people, well don`t forget it wasn`t to long ago your descendents were living like animals all filthy, smelly and dirt poor now you want to deny other people the same opportunity of an education

By: ELLEEJAX on 11/11/09 at 2:53

Grew up in Hillwood area, graduated from Hillwood 28 yrs. ago. Hillwood student population at that time was from the Hillwood neighborhood and West Nashville area. 20% black student body. No one I know now will send their kid to Hillwood. Thats why I work 2 jobs to pay 20 grand a year for private school.

By: frank brown on 11/11/09 at 5:52

In your lifetime you will not make a better investment.