published Thursday, April 29th, 2010

NAACP asks U.S. Department of Education to investigate Hamilton County Schools

by Kelli Gauthier
Audio clip

James Mapp

The civil rights leader who won a 26-year desegregation lawsuit against Chattanooga city schools now is calling for the federal government to investigate the Hamilton County school system for what he calls racial discrimination.

The move comes less than one week after James R. Mapp was honored during a Hamilton County Board of Education meeting for his civil rights work.

“It’s a fact that more money is spent on suburban schools than in the inner city,” said Mr. Mapp, citing new schools such as Signal Mountain Middle-High and East Hamilton Middle-High in East Brainerd. “They’re spending all around, and Brainerd and Orchard Knob Middle School have asbestos that should have been cleared around 1995.”

Mr. Mapp, a former NAACP leader, was among about a dozen organization members who voted this week to draft a letter calling for an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

NAACP President Valoria Armstrong is drafting the letter, and Mr. Mapp said he wants it sent immediately.

Schools Superintendent Jim Scales said he has not yet talked with NAACP leaders about the investigation. Until he sees in writing exactly what the association is claiming, he doesn’t want to comment, he said.

The NAACP specifically is asking the Office of Civil Rights to investigate if the school system allows better facilities at predominately white neighborhood schools and if vocational offerings that once were located in inner-city schools have been moved.

The organization also wants federal authorities to determine if the school board zoned white children in Missionary Ridge and the city of Ridgeside to East Ridge, while assigning black students living near the area to Henry L. Barger and Hillcrest schools.

Mr. Mapp believes all of that to be true.

“The school board has allowed superior facilities and offerings for many white neighborhood areas,” he said.

NAACP officials also complained that predominately black Brainerd High School still contains asbestos, even though a $1 million bond was provided in 1990 for the removal of all asbestos by 1995.

Mr. Mapp also cited several improvements needed at the predominately black Orchard Knob Middle School.

School board member George Ricks Sr., who represents the system’s District 4, which includes several inner-city schools, said he needed more information before commenting on whether or not he’s seen racial discrepancies.

School board member Chip Baker said that since many predominately black schools also receive Title I money for poor students from the federal government, it is likely that they actually receive more money than white schools.

He said he “highly doubts” whether Hamilton County Schools is treating black students unfairly, but he looks forward to seeing data provided by the NAACP.

“I welcome it,” he said. “It’s all about equity.”

As for the NAACP claim that black schools are neglected and in disrepair, he said that could be said of many schools in the system, black or white.

The Office of Civil Rights will consider information given and the laws at the time of the complaint to determine if a civil rights inquiry or full investigation will be done, said Alejandro Miyar, spokesman for the Department of Education.

This is the second time in less than a decade that the NAACP has called for a discrimination investigation against Hamilton County Schools.


1954 — U.S. Supreme Court renders the Brown vs. the Board of Education decision that leads to the desegregation of schools.

1960 — James Mapp files a desegregation lawsuit that leads to Chattanooga being under a 26-year court-supervised plan to desegregate schools in a case known as Mapp v. the Board of Education of the City of Chattanooga.

1986 — Magnet school debuts in Chattanooga.

1993 — City, county schools merge. Student body is 71 percent white

2002 — Civil Rights Project shows that local schools are 75 percent black or white

2002 — NAACP calls on the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to investigate Hamilton County Schools for racial discrimination

2003 — After the Office of Civil Rights investigates for eight months, NAACP officials drop the complaint, citing some improvements at inner-city schools.

2010 — NAACP officials vote to ask the Office of Civil Rights to investigate Hamilton County Schools again for racial discrimination.

In October 2002, the Office of Civil Rights conducted an eight-month investigation of the school system to determine if there were inadequate resources at predominantly black schools, zoning that excluded blacks near East Ridge Elementary from attending that school and a lack of experienced

teachers at predominately black schools.

The NAACP dropped the complaint in July 2003 after Howard School of Academics and Technology was renovated and received new computers and students at Brainerd High School’s success academy improved their reading scores.

However, former NAACP President Eddie Holmes said gains made during that time have been lost and another investigation of the school system is warranted.

“There is most definitely a disparity,” Mr. Holmes said.

He cited the exclusion of Hill City residents from attending Normal Park Museum Magnet School as an example.

Hill City is located in the North Chattanooga community, but most Hill City residents are black or poor whites and are zoned for Red Bank Elementary and Red Bank Middle schools, records show.

They are excluded from attending their neighborhood school, Mr. Mapp said.

Click here to vote in our daily poll: Do Hamilton County’s public schools discriminate against minorities?

about Kelli Gauthier...

Kelli Gauthier covers K-12 education in Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She started at the paper as an intern in 2006, crisscrossing the region writing feature stories from Pikeville, Tenn., to Lafayette, Ga. She also covered crime and courts before taking over the education beat in 2007. A native of Frederick, Md., Kelli came south to attend Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. Before newspapers, ...

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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KWVeteran said...

After all, 26 years of not being in the limelight again is long enough!

April 29, 2010 at 8:13 a.m.
Sailorman said...

Well it worked once for him, maybe it will again. Wonder if Jesse had anything to do with this? Shills like this guy, Jesse, and Al, have racism into a profitable industry.

April 29, 2010 at 8:22 a.m.
enufisenuf said...

He is in the biggest racist group in the US and cries more than a scolded child. WHen their own kind step up, realize their problems, for the most part, are caused by their own actions and decisions, than and only then will they figure out the solution is not the problems of the cities, courts, police or other races. Then they may figure out the solution to the problem is up to them and not anyone else. I am tired of their incessant whinning at their own shortcomings, grow up and open your eyes instead of your mouths

April 29, 2010 at 9:41 a.m.
Humphrey said...

I hope that this sort of call to attention of the inequalities in the schools and teachers between the poorer neighborhoods and the higher SES neighborhoods will help to narrow the achievement gap between children from lower and higher SES.

April 29, 2010 at 10:25 a.m.
CBIKAS said...

The NAACP is a racist group? Give me a break. I'm a member and I'm white. James Mapp is 83 years old. He doesn't need the limelight. He's already earned plenty of it. So I hope you realize how silly that sounds.

April 29, 2010 at 8:05 p.m.
bell_fighter said...

Every time the NAACP is mentioned in this newspaper the same small-minded people have to write their negative comments.Enuisenuf if you are tired of hearing the"so-called"whining then close your ears or better yet don't read the articles!Anything for the equality of ALL the children is for the best.

April 29, 2010 at 9:48 p.m.
Lefty said...

bell, I agree, it is like waving a cape in front of a bull. Too many on here view groups like the NAACP as a threat to the status quo. And guess what, they are, and they should be. We have gone too long in this part of the country without enough change in the backwards mindsets. We need people to fight for what is right in this country, and those who consider people like Jesse Jackson to be trouble makers seem to just want to keep things the same as they always were. As for the rest of us, we'll take some change.

April 29, 2010 at 10:30 p.m.
enufisenuf said...

Only think silly is the inability of some to see the forrest for the trees. Go back and read Bill Cosbys comments about who are the only ones who can help themselves. Crying that their mistreated at every turn and it's alwayssomeone elses problem is ridiculous. Being white in the NAACP only means you accept their crybaby status, it doesn't elevate you to be better than anyone.I stand behind what I believe and dislike the waste of time and money over issues that are their own fault and only their own fault. Bell, talk about small minded, your just like the brain washed cult worshiping religous dolts who believe if you don't agree with them your not entitled to an opinion. As long as there is whackos like you, I will speak ot. You want equality but only if it is in agreement with you, Small minded, you are the pot calling the kettle black

April 30, 2010 at 5:02 a.m.
enufisenuf said...

Lefty, you haven't learned form the last change? Guess it will take marshall law and the government making all your decisions for you, like a true dummy, to see the change. But then again, people like you never see the change, just glide silently, pacifly along likr the infant who enjoys the warm wet feeling in their diaper till it starts to burn. Then it's a little late.

April 30, 2010 at 5:06 a.m.
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