Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando families told they can quit racial busing

BROOKSVILLE — African-American families in South Brooksville will soon get the official word: Their children are just as entitled to school choice as are students from any other part of Hernando County.

In letters being sent out Monday, families will be told they have the right to "opt out" of a racial busing plan that, since the 1960s, has sent black children to schools many miles from their home. They'll also learn they have the right to apply to another school besides their neighborhood school under the district's controlled choice plan, just like other families.

Those rights aren't new. But they haven't been emphasized in recent years, as the district waits for a federal decision on whether it can formally end a desegregation plan designed for the grandparents of today's schoolchildren.

And that's a pity, said Superintendent Wayne Alexander.

"I'm saddened by the fact that we haven't always informed people, but that's the past," he added Thursday.

Back in 1965, there was no such thing as school choice for African-American families. Under a Jim Crow-era housing code, they could only live on the south side of town, and their children could only attend the all-black Moton School.

Compared to that, it felt like progress to many black families when the federal government forced the county in 1965 to adopt a so-called voluntary busing program, or face a court order to do so.

The numbers of students being bused to other schools has waned since the 1970s, when around 650 students were bused to Spring Hill schools. Last spring just 75 students were bused, with that number rising to 93 students last fall, said student services director James Knight.

Some families took advantage of a district offer to opt out of the busing program beginning in the 1990s.

Others value the option or have grown attached to schools like Westside Elementary, despite their distance, said officials from the local chapter of the NAACP last year.

But at a recent town meeting in South Brooksville, several residents told Alexander they weren't aware they could "opt out" of the plan and attend neighborhood schools, or apply to another school under the choice plan.

"That's something all parents have the right to take advantage of," school social worker Cynthia Jackson told the crowd.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that schools cannot assign students to schools in a "non-individualized, mechanical way" on the basis of race. But it left open the possibility that districts could take steps to prevent the isolation of minority students in just a few schools.

Those rulings shed little clarity on Hernando's situation. While around 7 percent of Hernando children are African-American, that percentage varies from as much as 16 percent in some schools to less than 2 percent in others.

The federal Department of Education has yet to rule on the county's 2006 request to end its busing program, Alexander said.

But in the meantime, he said, the district feels it is within its legal rights to remind families of their rights under the school choice plan — even if that means most or all black families decide to abandon busing.

"It feels safe to give families a choice," Alexander said. "It feels like what's best for kids."

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

>>Fast facts

Busing fades away

Number of African-American students bused in the past five years under Hernando County's 43-year-old racial busing program:

Year Riders

2004 194

2005 226

2006 89

2007 75

2008 93

Hernando families told they can quit racial busing 03/27/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 1, 2008 8:22am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas licensing board asks Sen. Jack Latvala for $500,000 loan

    Local Government

    The troubled Pinellas County agency that regulates contractors wants Sen. Jack Latvala to help it get a $500,000 lifeline from the state to stay afloat.

    State Sen . Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater, is being asked to help the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board get $500,000 from the state so it can stay open beyond February.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  2. FHP: 55-year-old pedestrian struck, killed by car in Largo

    Accidents

    LARGO — A 55-year-old St. Petersburg man died late Saturday after he walked into the path of a car on Ulmerton Road, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  3. Study offers warning for Florida strawberry farmers from global warming

    Agriculture

    LAKELAND — Florida strawberry growers already have experienced a dress rehearsal for the impacts of climate change during the past two seasons.

     Carl Grooms shows off some of his strawberries at Fancy Farms near Plant City Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015.  Grooms, President of Fancy Farms. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times]
  4. Two Interstate 275 tractor-trailer crashes cause delays in Tampa

    Accidents

    TAMPA — Two tractor-trailers driving in opposite directions on Interstate 275 crashed Sunday within a mile of each other, causing lane closures on both sides for much of the morning.

    Two tractor-trailers going opposite directions on Interstate 275 in Tampa crashed Sunday morning, closing lanes on each side, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. [Florida Highway Patrol]
  5. Read Anthony Scaramucci's old tweets. You'll understand why he deleted them

    National

    New White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci hasn't always shared the political views of the administration he now serves.

    Anthony Scaramucci, incoming White House communications director, takes questions as he speaks in the briefing room at the White House on Friday. [ Washington Post photo by by Jabin Botsford]