A group pushing for academic improvement in Smithfield-Selma schools is suing the Johnston County school system for access to records.
In a complaint filed Thursday in Johnston Superior Court, Concerned Citizens for Successful Schools says the school system hasn’t turned over demographic information requested nearly nine months ago. The group, formed in 2012 as the Citizens’ Study Commission, says it needs that information to understand the racial imbalance in Smithfield-Selma schools.
The group says it first requested that information and other data on May 29. The school system provided some information five months later, but the demographic information was missing, the complaint states.
The Concerned Citizens for Successful Schools requested the demographic information again on Dec. 2, according to the complaint. On Jan. 15, the group received a response from the school system’s public information officer, Tracey Peedin Jones, who said only that the request was “being reviewed,” the complaint states.
The group says it has received no further response from the schools, prompting its civil complaint.
“Data gathering has been crucial to understanding why an imbalance of poor and non-white students continues to grow within the Johnston County schools,” the group said in a news release announcing the civil complaint.
Asked to comment on the complaint Friday, Jones did not respond.
The group says it is also seeking to learn “why students are transferring (out of Smithfield-Selma schools) and the rationale for granting transfers.” And it wants to know “how the school board uses racial and socioeconomic demographics to assign students to attendance areas and ... what incentives, recruitment or teacher-transfer programs are in place to address teacher turnover in the Smithfield and Selma area schools.”
The Concerned Citizens for Successful Schools is made up of parents, educators, business owners and civic leaders “concerned about the academic decline occurring” in Smithfield-Selma schools, the news release says.
The group’s mission is “to remedy racial and socioeconomic disparities in Johnston County schools so as to ensure the opportunity for a sound, basic education that will improve academic performance and outcomes for students in Smithfield-Selma High and its feeder schools – South Smithfield Elementary, Smithfield Middle, Selma Elementary, Selma Middle, and Wilson’s Mills Elementary,” the news release says.
The news release notes that the group is working with the UNC Center for Civil Rights, whose attorney filed Thursday’s civil complaint on the group’s behalf.
The group says it has met with Johnston school leaders twice, in April and September 2014.