Butler County Board of Education awaits ruling

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 1, 2001

December 21 is a date that holds great significance for the Butler County Board of Education. It is the day that the board will hear the ruling of whether the court order set forth by Lee v. Butler County Board of Education, which the school system has been under for the last 31 years, will be lifted.

The school system has been under a court order to desegregate its schools since June 1970. The ruling of the case stated that it is unconstitutional for schools to be segregated, and that the Board of Education must make every effort to desegregate all schools.

On Wednesday, the board appeared before Judge Myron Thompson in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District in Montgomery, requesting that unitary status be granted to the Butler County School System.

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Because the board felt they had fulfilled all obligations set forth by the court, the board requested that court supervision be terminated.

The hearing began with four residents of Butler County appearing before Judge Thompson with various complaints concerning the board.

&uot;There is a vast silent faction of faculty who will not come forward with their complaints because they are afraid to speak up because of the possible reprecussions,&uot; said JoAnn Tillman, a resident of Butler County. &uot;There is also a concern of the lack of minorities teaching in the Butler County school system.&uot;

Caroline Crenshaw, a second resident, expressed concern over

the disciplining of students and requested that teachers be given proper training to help prepare to deal with students with bad behavior.

Crenshaw also said that her concern was if the Board of Education was granted unitary status, then they would be released from their obligations set forth by the court order and would not continue to follow the standards required by the court order.

The only testimony that was given by the Butler County Board of Education was that of Superintendent Dr. Mike Reed, who said that the board had held a public meeting and published a notice of this hearing that were required by the court order and had followed all necessary provisions of the order.

Reed was asked several questions concerning discipline of minority students and employment of minority teachers.

In the area of employment, Reed said that the numbers of faculty and staff had decreased due to proration, and although the number of caucasian staff declined by 17, the number of minorities hired had increased. He also said that in the area of recruiting, Assistant Superintendent Allin Whittle makes frequent trips to predominantly black schools to recruit new teachers to Butler County, including Alabama State University, Tuskegee University and the University of North Alabama.

Reed also said that he was unaware of any complaints that any faculty and staff may have, but he hoped that if there were any grievances, then they would come forward. He also said that there is a grievance policy in place for all faculty and staff complaints.

In the area of discipline, Reed said each principal is required to look at the disciplinary actions taken with all students and submit a report stating what their individual schools are doing to combat discipline problems such as starting special programs, including mentoring and tutoring programs before and after school.

Reed also told the court that the school board currently has a policy called the &uot;Plan for the Future&uot; which

outlines five areas that Butler County will focus on as part of their commitment to continue to abide by the obligations set forth by Lee v. Butler County Board of Education. The five areas the board will focus on are faculty recruitment and assignment, student assignment and instruction, extracurricular activities, student discipline and special education.

After hearing the testimony of Reed, the plaintiffs stated they had no objections to the board filing for unitary status, but they hoped the board would continue to meet their obligations set forth by Lee.

&uot;I think it went really well,&uot; said Reed. &uot;I am very hopeful and we are committed to continue to work to meet the needs of the citizens of Butler County.&uot;

The ruling will be announced on Dec. 21 by Judge Thompson at the federal courthouse in Montgomery.