League of Women voters address resegregation

Voters attending The League of Women Voters of Tallahassee event.
Photo submitted by Precious J. Tankard

On Oct. 24, The League of Women Voters of Tallahassee hosted a conversation concerning resegregation among Leon County Schools.

Studies show segregation in Florida schools is now back on the rise. Local leaders, school board members, teachers and residents gathered to converse about resegregation within Tallahassee.

The forum was held at the historically marked Lincoln Community Center. Formally known as Lincoln High, this center lead way to desegregation throughout the community after its final graduating class in 1969. Choosing to have the forum here was ironic and a moment of dear reflection to some.

Open to the public, the hot topic presented by a panel provided various presentations and ended in a series of “question and answers” on behalf of concerned community members and leaders.

The panel consisted of the Florida State University's LeRoy Collins Institute Director Carol Weissert, Ph.D., Leon County School Board member Joy Bowen and Hartsfield Elementary School Principal Rhonda Flanagan, Ph.D.

Controversial views were presented as Dr. Weissert opened the discussion with various forms of data giving reasoning to why resegregation to some is beneficial.

The LeRoy Collins Institute is a statewide policy organization based in Tallahassee. During the panel they explained that the increase in segregated schools is due to demographic changes, charter academies rising and more. The institute works alongside the State University System of Florida. Their studies promote creative solutions to key private and public issues such as desegregation of K-12 schools.

Tallahassee resident Kayla Sykes stated, “The impact of Leon County schools reaches all residents in some manner, even if you have no children currently there, so equal equality education should be a fight for the community as a whole.”

Desegregation in Leon County Schools took course over 50 years, and now it is beginning to resurface.

Though Frank Hartsfield Elementary student body is primarily black, Flanagan commented on how integration can benefit both black and white students.

Integration is good,” she said. “I am a product of integration myself. Integration is supported by decades of research showing that when students of color learn in classrooms along with white students they receive higher rates.  They achieve higher and they do better. Integration benefits both whites and children of color in preparing them to function in a diverse society.”

Bowen closed the panel portion of the discussion on a powerful note: “Resegregation reflects multiple complicated issues such as school choice. We have been mandated by the state that we have to do this whether we like it or not.”

“Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and do what’s right,” she continued. “I’m listening for a community that is ready to do what is right, because the time is always right to do what’s right.”

As addressed in their mission statement, “The League of Women Voters of Tallahassee, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.”

Monthly, the league of women hosts “hot topic” forums to involve community members in discussion on various matters. To become apart or stay abreast on what’s next, visit https://www.lwvtallahassee.org.