Teens assail school board 'puppets'

Staff WriterJuly 16, 2010 

— A group of Wake County teenagers opposed to neighborhood schools hurled allegations Thursday that conservative groups are out to resegregate the school system and destroy public education.

The members of N.C. Heat (Heroes Emerging Amongst Teenagers) argued that the new school board majority ended the socioeconomic diversity policy because they're "puppets" of conservatives. The teenagers hope to mobilize turnout for Tuesday's mass march in downtown Raleigh and protest at that day's Wake County school board meeting.

March, protest planned

"If we get enough young people out, they're going to have to listen to us," said Quinton White, 18, a rising senior at Southeast Raleigh High School and a member of N.C. Heat.

More than 50 people, many of them school-age, attended the rally held Thursday at Raleigh's Pullen Memorial Baptist Church to organize the coming march.

Members of the new school board majority argue that the district's diversity policy didn't help minority and low-income students and that neighborhood schools will lead to more family stability.

'Economic segregation'

But David Eisenstadt, 16, a rising junior at Enloe High School and member of N.C. Heat, said "'neighborhood schools' is segregating schools by economics."

"This will lead to segregation in Wake County, no doubt about that," said Robert Wright, a fellow Enloe student and N.C. Heat member.

Monserrat Alvarez, 17, a recent graduate of Athens Drive High School and an N.C. Heat member, said she now greatly appreciates being bused 40 minutes to Apex for diversity reasons when she was younger.

Wright told the crowd they were "fighting the oppressors of Wake County" who are "pushing an agenda of right-wing politics." Much of N.C. Heat's focus was on conservative businessmen Art Pope and Bob Luddy, who provided $38,000 either to individual school board candidates last year or to the Wake County Republican Party's campaign efforts.

Eisenstadt said they're also fighting Steve Noble, the chairman of Called2Action, a local conservative Christian group that backs the new board majority.

"We don't need to call these people out, but it's the plain truth," Alvarez said.

Wright said some marchers might peel off from Tuesday's march to protest at the Pope Family Foundation's headquarters in downtown Raleigh.

Pope called the teenagers' allegations "shocking and surprising." He said he hasn't had contact with school board members since the election and is not telling them what to do.

"It's either paranoia, propaganda or misinformation on their part," Pope said.

John Tedesco, a member of the school board majority, said that adults are "brainwashing the kids with propaganda."

"It's a shame that these adults are using these kids as weapons," he said.

keung.hui@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4534

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