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The NAACP's lawsuit against Nashville's student rezoning plan started ignominiously for Metro school officials today. A half dozen Metro lawyers were forced to appear before U.S. District Judge William Haynes to try to explain why, in obvious violation of state law, John Early Middle School still lacks textbooks three weeks after students have returned. The NAACP's lawyer, Larry Woods, took full advantage of the media attention.
"The Metro school board doesn't do anything but tell lies about this," Woods declared. "They want black children kept in north Nashville where white people don't have to see them or think about them."
Among these unfortunate children, he says, is the daughter of the lead plaintiffs in his lawsuit. The sixth-grade daughter of Frances and Jeffrey Spurlock was denied enrollment in Bellevue Middle School and forced to attend John Early instead.
Woods asked the judge to reassign the Spurlock girl to Bellevue and to order Metro to deliver textbooks to John Early immediately.
If the city is spending $6 million a year to improve inner-city schools, a key ingredient in the rezoning plan, "then why don't we have textbooks for the sixth grade at John Early," Woods demanded to know. "Where's the extra resources they promised? They can't even get schoolbooks into north Nashville.
"I don't understand why every school board member didn't back their cars up to the Tennessee state schoolbook warehouse and deliver these books to these schools already."
Haynes granted both the NAACP's demands after an hour-long hearing in which Metro lawyers tried to dismiss the situation as an unfortunate, yet commonplace snafu. Metro lawyer Jim Charles blamed John Early's principal.
"She didn't order enough books," he told the judge, adding later "she didn't order them in a timely fashion."
He insisted Metro could deliver textbooks to the school by Friday. "Tonight would be a lot better," Woods snapped.
The judge was nonplussed. "Where is the book depository? You mean you can't get a bus to go out there or a car or a van to go out and get these books?" he asked before ordering the textbooks brought to the school within 24 hours.
The meat of the lawsuit--that the school board, acting in cahoots with the Chamber of Commerce, conspired to consign black children to substandard schools to please suburban whites--will be heard later. The case has been assigned to a new judge, Haynes told the courtroom in a final piece of bad news for the school board. It's John Nixon, one of the most liberal federal judges ever to sit on the bench in Tennessee.
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