Florence One moves to end desegregation order

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) –  Florence community members will hold a meeting about a nearly 50-year-old court order to desegregate Florence School District One schools Monday at 7pm.

Parents and community members are asked to come to Savannah Grove Elementary to give input on the district’s progress with desegregation. This comes about 47 years after a court ordered the district to desegregate its schools in 1970.

Community activists James Williams and Charles Foxe were a part of the 1st desegregated class in 1971.

“We went to… Southside (High) under that forced desegregation,” said Williams.

Both Williams and Foxe testified at the 1996 hearing when the Department of Justice came back to the district and found it was not fully following the desegregation court order especially in areas like North Florence.

Earlier this year, in April, the District Attorney Laurence McIntosh asked the Department of Justice to dismiss the decade’s old court order.

No one from the district wanted to go on camera but the office released this statement that says in part:

Florence School District Statement

“Since the early 1990’s, Florence School District One has been under a court order by the US Justice Department brought on by a 1970 complaint outlining concerns about racial segregation in the school district. Since that time, Florence One has worked toward compliance with mandates of the order as it relates to school attendance boundaries, majority-to-minority transfer requests, staffing, racial makeup of student population in each school, and specific school programs.  Because there have been no additional complaints to the Justice Department about Florence School District One’s compliance with the order, Florence One’s attorney who has worked with the Justice Department since 1970, deemed it appropriate to seek closure of the case based on Florence One’s efforts to comply with the order over the past 20 years.”

Williams said the Department of Justice asked him to host a community meeting to hear from the public.

He believes the district is moving toward desegregation in West Florence but is still depriving other sections like North Florence.

“We have built a number of schools. Most of them built in one area if the city,” said Williams. “Based on where those new schools have been built it doesn’t lend itself to assuring us that you still have to desegregate our schools in mind.”

Six schools in the District have more than 60% African American students with North Vista Elementary at 93%.

  • Lester Elementary                        Black 67.97 percent- White 23.09
  • North Vista Elementary                Black 92.78- White 4.53
  • Savannah Grove Elementary      Black 64.44- White 28.59
  • Timrod Elementary                       Black 60.49- White 27.90
  • Williams Middle                             Black 61.38- White 26.76
  • Wilson High                                    Black 65.37- White 24.22

“Our schools need to reflect the real world. Integration is a part of the real world. If we don’t progressively move toward providing that kind of environment for our children. I think we’re doing them a disservice,” said Williams.

The Department of Justice is in the district until this Wednesday to review the progress with desegregation in the district.