With rezoning on the horizon, parents raise concerns about segregation in Suffolk Public Schools

SUFFOLK, Va. - It has been an issue for a long time -- schools in Suffolk are not properly integrated, according to the Department of Justice.

Bethanne Bradshaw, a spokeswoman for Suffolk Public Schools told News 3 that the Department of Justice first found Suffolk Public Schools out of compliance back in 1970 and though the schools have made changes over the years, many still do not have the ratio of black to white students needed to be removed from this federal 'watch list.'

Bradshaw said much of that has to do with the demographic of neighborhoods surrounding each school and Suffolk Public Schools has implemented the 'minority to majority program,' where parents can opt to send their kids to another schools in order to make them more racially balanced.

Amy Ford, a mother of three Suffolk students and a citizen who says she is concerned about this issue, told us she has not seen any significant change.

Ford has followed the Justice Department's ruling for years and said the City of Suffolk is 60:40 black residents to white residents and she wants the schools to reflect that.

She named several schools that are predominantly white and a few more that are predominantly black.

In March, the Justice Department ruled that Suffolk has three years to get their schools into compliance. In that three-year period, two new schools are being built in Suffolk and there is a meeting being held November 9 to talk about rezoning.

Bradshaw said the rezoning is not being done in order to further integrate schools but she released this statement to us, saying in part:

"We are rezoning because we are opening two new schools and students will need to come from current attendance zones to fill the seats.  The new schools will relieve overcrowding in some northern schools.

On Nov. 9, the School Board will discuss for the first time the rezoning criteria. In the past, the criteria sometimes has included the length of bus rides, ethnic balance of student population, number of mobile units at other schools, class sizes, and other factors.  In years past, the general breakdown of the school-aged children (ages 5-18 for the most part) has been 60% black / 40% white.  So in years past, the board set the criteria to attempt to keep the ethnic balance at 60-40.

The new zones will be reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice because of the long-standing federal court order.'

The meeting to hear public input about the construction of two new schools and the rezoning of students is being held on November 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at 442 W. Washington St.