Racial conflict in school board appointment
July 1, 2001
A small group of people who live outside the city but inside the Meridian Separate School District now say they never wanted a representative on the city school board.
They wanted the freedom to send their children to mostly-white Lauderdale County schools, not mostly black city schools.
They saw a new law passed by the Legislature as a "choice" bill, even though legislators who wrote the law say it was not.
They raised and then walked away from a "taxation without representation argument."
But the most sobering element of the latest school board controversy was the undercurrent of racial conflict identified last week by Meridian city councilman Dr. George Thomas. Even here, in the 21st century, old prejudices still raise their heads. Thomas believes the racial issue must be dealt with and he is right.
The appointment of Bobby Jack "BJ" Barrett, who lives in the affected area outside city limits, to an unexpired term on the city school board may or may not prove to be a good solution. Time will tell.
The move affects parents of 227 children in a 7,000 student system. It also takes away whatever "choice" for which they had hoped their children now must attend city schools. It removes a financial cloud from the city school district city schools will not lose funding of $1,800 per child per year because the children will now remain in the system. It also means the county school district will not benefit from the students transferring to county schools.
Let's assess: The new school board member faces threats and a turbulent couple of years in office. Simmering racial conflicts still define the lives of some area residents. Kids will go to schools their parents don't want them to attend. Parents got school board representation they now say they don't want. Legislators are explaining why the law they wrote really wasn't a choice bill. The city schools won't lose money; the county schools won't gain any.
This is progress?