GREENBELT, Md. – The state of Maryland and the NAACP say Prince George’s County should pay for desegregating its schools.
A motion filed by the state Monday in U.S. District Court argues there is no evidence the state is responsible for the racial imbalances in the county schools.
“The state of Maryland cannot deny its past sponsorship of public school segregation,” said the motion, written by attorney Carmen Shepard. “However, the state repudiated its acceptance of segregated schools more than 40 years ago.”
State-mandated school desegregation ended in a 1955 landmark Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan.
In a separate filing Feb. 10, the county chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said it would take too much time for Judge Peter Messitte to determine the amount the state should pay.
The NAACP does not oppose the state paying, but feels a long delay would occur and would take away from efforts to desegregate the schools, its filing says.
“We have no evidence the county cannot pay by itself and begin the process of desegregating,” said Patricia Brannan, lawyer for the NAACP.
Sean Wallace, attorney for Prince George’s County, called the position of the NAACP “a bunch of nonsense.”
“No one’s demonstrated it will take any longer” if the state is involved in paying, Wallace said.
The motions filed by the state and the NAACP are in response to papers offered to the court by the Prince George’s County School Board and the county government in December. They ask Messitte to force the state to share the expense of carrying out the desegregation process.
This process began in 1972 when a federal judge ruled in favor of the NAACP, which sued the school system for segregating black and white students.
This past summer, Messitte called for a review of how well the school board has been using magnet schools as a desegregation tool. The county then asked Messitte to force the state to pay for further desegregation efforts, should they be necessary.
The magnet schools, set up in 1985, are used as substitutes for involuntary busing. For example, at Suitland High School, white students, a clear minority, are sent voluntarily by their parents to participate in the school’s visual and performing arts program. The school has an 89.9 percent black student population.
In all, Prince George’s County public schools have more than 122,000 students. About 73 percent are black.
The county and the school board have been given two weeks to respond to the motions from the state and the NAACP. Then Messitte is expected to rule on whether the state should have to pay.