Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, was among 19 people arrested at a July 20 hearing in Wake County, N.C. about the local school district’s busing policy.
“It’s time that the Wake County school board officials wake up and realize how a model for re-segregation will damage not only our state, but the basic principles of our nation,” Barber told CNN. “It’s time to say no to re-segregation and say yes to diversity and school excellence.”
Barber was arrested and charged with trespassing, because he had already been banned from school property after being charged with trespassing at an earlier meeting.
Wake County had a policy that bused some students to schools that weren’t necessarily closest to their homes in order to increase diversity within the school system. However, the Wake County school board decided to reverse that decision, a choice that has been met with great resistance from the African-American community in North Carolina.
Those feelings came to a head at the meeting as more than 1,000 people marched through the streets of Raleigh, N.C. to the state capitol.
“We cannot afford to go backwards,” former freedom rider George Blackwell told the Associated Press. “We must continue to go forward until all minds are set or made up that we must live together or we perish together.”
The school board, which was elected last year, has taken much criticism for the ruling but stands firm in its decision to reverse the policy. John Tedesco, who according to CNN crafted the policy, told the AP that it would be racist to keep the current system in place.
“To look at somebody by the color of their skin or the amount of money in their mom and dad’s pockets and say you can’t go to this school or you can go to this school seems inherently unfair to me,” Tedesco said.
Ron Margiotta, the board’s chairman, went even further, saying that the new system will improve the school system all the way around.
“The new assignment plan will overcome the inefficiencies of the past including a lack of stability, a lack of choice and stagnated student achievement, while increasing trust and collaboration between all stakeholders,” Margiotta said during the hearing.