DATE: July 31, 2017
Vero Beach, FL, July 31, 2017– Today, the School Board filed a Motion for Declaration of Partial Unitary Status in the federal desegregation case. This is the first step toward attaining full unitary status.
In 1964, the School Board was sued in federal court for operating a segregated system of public schools. In the late 1960’s, various Court Orders were entered regarding the plan for the District to desegregate its public schools. The District operated under these Desegregation Orders until 1994, when a revised Court Order was approved, and in 1995 the Court Order was slightly modified by a letter agreement between the School Board and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
In early 2015, the School Board re-opened the discussion of the District’s compliance with the 1994 Court Order and expressed an interest in exploring Court approval of Unitary status. In December of 2015, the School Board directed Dr. Rendell to provide the School Board a better understanding of compliance with the Court Order over the past years and the possibility of requesting Court approval of Unitary status.
In 2016, District staff gathered available historical information to be analyzed by legal counsel specially retained to advise the School Board regarding compliance with the Court Order. At the conclusion of that work, it was reported that the School Board likely could show that it met the legal standards for release from Court supervision in at least three areas: facilities, faculty, and staff. The Board then directed legal counsel to move forward jointly with the NAACP to attempt to attain Partial Unitary status in the three identified areas. It was, and is, the desire of the School Board to work with the NAACP to achieve Full and Final Unitary status.
Legal counsel specially retained to handle the Unitary status work has been in communication with NAACP legal counsel in an attempt to reach agreement on Partial Unitary status in the three identified areas of facilities, faculty, and staff, but so far, those efforts have not been successful.
- Since the 1960’s, the District has made great strides with respect to its facilities. The use of athletic fields, meeting rooms, and all other school-related services, facilities, activities, and programs are open to all persons without regard to race or color. The School Board has expressed its intent to continue this philosophy of equitable and comparable facility planning through policy statements and annual reviews.
- Further, the District has made significant efforts in recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce in all levels of employment; administrative, instructional, and support. The School Board has also expressed its intent to continue these efforts through policy statements and annual compliance reviews.
Unfortunately, the NAACP has declined to join with the School Board in presenting a joint motion for Partial Unitary status to the Court in the areas of facilities, faculty, and staff. While the School Board is disappointed with the NAACP decision, the School Board is committed to moving forward.
Chairman Searcy states, “The School Board has expressed its intent to attain Unitary status. I am pleased we are able to request Court approval of Partial Unitary status in these three areas, and look forward to requesting Full Unitary status in the near future.”