Parents say RPS closure, rezoning plan ‘continues segregation’

Posted at 10:15 PM, Jul 15, 2013

RICHMOND, Va (WTVR) -- Tuesday morning, Richmond School Board member Shonda Harris-Muhammed reacted to yesterday's rally by parents concerned with the district's rezoning plan.  Muhammed told CBS 6 reporter Jerrita Patterson:

"The concerns are valid. The community feels their voices were not heard. We are talking about a predominately African-American community asking, 'Why aren't you listening to us? We sent e-mails and came out in large numbers pleading with you. So why are these schools being closed?'  The process is flawed. We needed to wait a year and this all goes beyond the race issue."

Harris-Muhammed's reaction is a response to children and parents who protested prior to Monday night's emotionally charged Richmond School Board Meeting.

“We demand change,” shouted one protester.

Parents like Kimberly Jones said that the school board's hasty decision to close several schools and rezone some neighborhoods is flawed.

“When those school doors closed for the last time, a huge injustice occurred,” said Jones.

She told CBS 6’s Lorenzo Hall that no one informed her about her daughter's new school location. She also said her neighbors were left wondering for weeks.

“It makes me feel like, because I don't have a college degree and because I’m a low economic person, socially. Because I live where I live, they can say, you don't need to know. You don't care anyway,” said Jones.

Jones also said the new rezoning plans will now segregate several elementary schools. One parent who lives in Woodland Heights is wondering why her child won't be going to nearby Swansboro Elementary, which is in a less prosperous area and in walking distance, but instead, a school in Westover Hills.

“You look like the community out there, but, I don't understand why your privilege took you away to continue segregation,” one parent told board members.

Some of those parents even hired an attorney to find out if the school system is breaking any laws.

To make sure they're not and after seeing the protests, one school board member wanted her colleagues to take another look at the plan.

“If we don't revisit, we would have caused an error to be made,” says Tichi Pinkney-Eppes.

However, the board voted to leave the rezoning plan as is with a 5-4 vote.