The Johnston County school system has agreed to release information sought by a Smithfield-Selma group that had sued to obtain the data, which it said were public records.
Concerned Citizens for Successful Schools, or CCSS, is a group pushing for academic improvement in Smithfield-Selma schools. In February, the group sued to obtain mostly demographic data that the school system hadn’t provided despite repeated requests over several months.
The group said the demographic data would help it better understand racial imbalance in Smithfield-Selma schools.
In May 2015, with help from attorneys with the UNC Center for Civil Rights, CCSS mailed the school board a public records request. That October, the schools released several records but not those related to racial and socioeconomic demographics of each school attendance area.
The group also had requested data on the race of students transferring out of Smithfield-Selma schools. But the school system says it stopped tracking that information in 2010, and the board argued that information was not subject to public records laws.
While the school system has agreed to release the demographic data, CCSS said it remains concerned about “the growing concentration of poor and non-white students in Smithfield and Selma schools.”
Susan Lassiter, the group’s chairwoman, said CCSS “is particularly troubled by the district’s choice to no longer keep track of the race of transfer students while also employing an open transfer policy.”
Lassiter declined to comment further.
In a news release, the group said policies that allow families with more resources to “flee schools where high-needs students are concentrated can worsen school segregation, which has a range of detrimental impacts on all students within a school system.”
CCSS is made up of parents, educators, business owners and civic leaders “concerned about the academic decline occurring” in Smithfield-Selma schools.
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.”
The Johnston County Board of Education issued a statement in response to the CCSS news release. In part, it said: “The Concerned Citizens proposed a settlement of the case after the board filed a motion seeking dismissal of the case and an award of attorney fees. The board agreed with the Concerned Citizens to settle the case to avoid further waste of school district resources.”
Abbie Bennett: 919-553-7234, Ext. 101; @AbbieRBennett