Nacogdoches, Colmesneil remaining under desegregation order

BEAUMONT, TX (News Release) - By Donna McCollum - email

NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - A federal judge has lifted a 39-year-old statewide school desegregation order from all but nine rural Texas public school systems, including Nacogdoches and Colmesneil, in what is now largely a symbolic move.

U.S. District Judge Michael H. Schneider of Tyler found that all but nine of the school systems have either been released from desegregation orders by other federal judges, are under separate desegregation orders issued in different cases, or weren't parties to the 1970 suit that spawned the statewide order.

In a four-page order issued Thursday, Schneider noted that he has neither examined nor determined whether the freed districts are fully desegregated.

The districts remaining under the order are mostly small-town districts in east Texas. They are the Buffalo, Colmesneil, Daingerfield, Fairfield, Malakoff, Nacogdoches, Oakwood, Smithville and Whitewright school districts.

Today, NISD shared a statement issued by commissioner of education, Robert Scott, saying, "this status in no way implies any wrongdoing by those districts.

The agency will coordinate with the Texas Attorney General's Office and the nine districts to complete their removal from the litigation."

Individuals who experienced firsthand the injustice of segregation in Nacogdoches read over the lifted school desegregation order. It brings back memories.

"I was right in the middle," Rev. Leonard Sweat of St. James Baptist Church said. "I was right there."

Segregation came to an end sweat's senior year. He fought it at first.

"It was kind of hard on us," Sweat said. "We had all kinds of aspirations for our senior year."

Now, as an adult the reverend recognizes the benefits, but believes education equal to all has yet to be reached.


"The old bureaucracy here in Nacogdoches don't want to change," Sweat said. "This unequal balance within the community, black and white. That's just the way I feel about it."

Charlotte Stokes saw firsthand the fight for integration in the shadow of her father, NAACP leader Arthur Weaver. She sees the progress, but not the ultimate goal.

"Too many of our minority children are not graduating," Stokes said. "Too many are dropping out, even in our integrated society. We should not have that many children dropping out."

Stokes is concerned too many minorities aren't reaching their full potential.

"Not just graduating with a third or fourth grade level," Stokes said. "Too much students are coming out like that."

Judge William Wayne Justice's original order was necessary and personally courageous says Robert Scott, commissioner of education. Those affected by it first hand say there's still more work to be done.

Nacogdoches Independent School District responded by issuing this statement today..

"NISD has been desegregated and focused on fostering diversity in our schools for decades. We wholly endorse and support school integration and support the pursuit of legal efforts to allow for full integration when necessary."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.