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Concerned citizens discuss appeal to reopen Edward Bell

Published 1:43pm Monday, April 9, 2012

Edward Bell School and the Tallapoosa County Board of Education were the topics of discussion at Thursday’s meeting of the Concerned Citizens of Camp Hill.

The group met at Mount Lovely Baptist Church in Camp Hill, and Frank Holley addressed the crowd of 30 or so citizens first.

“We started out initially in an effort to save Edward Bell School, and we haven’t given up on that,” Holley said. “I am optimistic that something can be done about it. I think a lot of people have given up, but schools have been reopened when they were voted to be closed by boards of education.”

Ronald Jackson, of Citizens for Better Schools and Sustainable Communities, was the speaker for the night. Jackson described a consent agreement that the Tallapoosa County Board of Education entered into with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights in late 2011.

“They now have legal enforcement powers to get equal education opportunities from Tallapoosa County Schools,” Jackson said. “The quality of their students’ education lies in their own hands, and if they don’t enforce those rights they will default their children’s education.”

Jackson filed an official complaint with the OCR alleging the following:

- the district has disproportionately assigned in-school suspensions and out-of-school suspensions to African-American students for offenses which it did not similarly discipline white students

- the district assigned African-American students to the district’s alternative school at a rate more than double the ratio of their presence in the district as compared to white students

- the district is not providing the students with a free appropriate public educations, as they are disproportionately assigned to special education

- the district does not lawfully implement its Section 504 and the Individuals with Disabilities Act programs, resulting in African American students being placed in self-contained classrooms

- African-American students at Edward Bell High School were denied the opportunity to enroll in the math AP class offered at the school on the basis of race

According to the agreement, the school board will report requested information back to the OCR for the 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years.

Jackson also discussed the transportation system issues that he said came out of the closing of Edward Bell School.

“The transportation system issues are so important to taxpayers because that’s where the biggest deficits are in the operation of the school system,” Jackson said.

On a final note, Jackson said that his group had appealed the decision to close Edward Bell.

“We demand that Edward Bell be reopened,” Jackson said. “The premise for closing was based on misrepresentation from school board members that spoke to the OCR, and the financial data was skewed because Tallapoosa County has increased and not decreased enrollment, which brings about more funding.”

Decreasing enrollment at Edward Bell was one of the reasons given for closing the school, Jackson said.

“If you look at the financial data, they were getting more money because Edward Bell was increasing enrollment and so were other schools, which wipes out the rationale that they needed to close the school.”

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