WASHINGTON - The U.S. Justice Department announced today that it has reached a settlement with the Pickens County, Ala., school board to eliminate racial disparities in its system.
Under terms of the agreement, the board, working with state officials, will develop policies and programs to eliminate racial disparities in student discipline, grade retention, graduation rates and post-graduate scholarships, the Justice Department stated in a release.
The agreement further obligates the board to intensify its efforts to recruit minority applicants for faculty and administrative positions, and to take steps to ensure that the assignment of certified and non-certified staff to district schools does not result in nor reinforce racially identifiable schools.
In conjunction with the parties’ agreement, the state of Alabama will establish and operate an early learning center that will provide educational services to four-year old children in Pickens County at no cost to parents. The state has also agreed to provide substantial training and educational expertise to assist the board in executing its obligations under the agreement, as well as its desegregation obligations more broadly.
“Equal access to educational opportunities is a fundamental civil right. This creative and comprehensive remedial plan will enhance educational opportunities for all students and puts the Pickens County School District on a path to unitary status,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “I thank all parties for their cooperation in reaching this agreement. Importantly, the state of Alabama is willing to invest scarce resources in a school district that is demonstrably committed to fulfilling its desegregation obligations.”
“The citizens of our state benefit when parties come together, as here, to ensure that all children, regardless of race, have equal access to the best possible educational opportunities,” said U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance of the Northern District of Alabama.