- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 1, 2002

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Researchers warned at a conference that a "perfect storm" of economic and legal developments could accelerate an already emerging resegregation of public schools in the South.
"My contention is there is a storm brewing," said Jack Boger Friday, deputy director of the University of North Carolina Center for Civil Rights, who helped organize the conference to "raise a warning flag to Southern educators."
Among the factors he cited were the lifting of court-ordered integration orders in many areas and new teacher accountability standards that might prompt qualified teachers to flee high-minority schools.
The conference on resegregation comes on the heels of a Harvard study that found integration between whites and blacks to be decreasing or steady in all but a handful of the nation's largest school districts over the past 14 years.
Since 1998, after three decades of steady growth, the percentage of blacks in majority white schools in the South has decreased from 43.5 percent to 31 percent. The 20 most rapidly resegregating school districts are concentrated in the South, with eight in Texas and three in Georgia.
Panelist after panelist told the 500 teachers, administrators and judges in attendance that as residential segregation in the region has decreased, school segregation has increased.
Charles Clotfelter, a Duke University researcher, reported that "white flight" to private schools in the South continues at much the same rate as immediately after integration.
UNC-Charlotte researcher Roslyn Mickelson found that in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County in North Carolina, where a mandatory integration order was lifted in 1999, there are already 11 percent fewer racially balanced elementary schools and 12.5 percent fewer racially balanced high schools.
Keynote speaker Juan Williams, a National Public Radio correspondent and author of the civil rights history "Eyes on the Prize," called the conference a consciousness-raising exercise because Americans know that "something is askew."
Mr. Williams told attendees that they were the heirs to people such as the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and that they needed to work to defend the progress made over the past half-century.
"Continue that proud tradition of struggle and fight for an America at its best," he said. "It is our day to pick up the mantle."
In the audience Friday was Minnijean Brown Trickey, a member of the "Little Rock 9" who integrated schools in Arkansas' capital in 1957. She said these academics have to go out and pressure politicians and the courts to keep the nation's schools integrated.
"It's important to say, 'Hey, we can do this,'" she said.


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