Schools Vow To Advance Diversity

By Kameel Stanley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fourteen years after the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision, white and black children in Loudoun County were still attending separate schools.

It took a federal lawsuit against school officials and then-Superintendent Clarence Bussinger being threatened with jail time before schools were fully integrated in 1968.

Forty years later, more than 30 percent of the 54,047 students in Loudoun schools are minorities, according to 2007-08 figures.

Yet at a time when many acknowledge the district's progress in promoting diversity and equity, concerns persist among some in the black community over issues such as the achievement gap between white and minority students, the underrepresentation of students of color in college-level courses and the relative lack of diversity among school employees.

And with the start of the school year last week, some parents and community activists said they fear that recent staff changes could slow the momentum that has taken four decades to build.

"There are individuals who want to do the right thing," said Pam Taggart, a member of the Loudoun NAACP's education committee. "I question the commitment of the School Board and the administration."

School Board Chairman Robert F. DuPree Jr. (Dulles) said the district has made great progress and that its commitment to diversity is evident.

This is the first year that the Loudoun district as a whole met federal benchmarks under the No Child Left Behind law, a result that included gains by minority students, DuPree said.

"This is something we take very seriously," he said. "The School Board and the administration are fully committed on all fronts. It's a commitment that does not waver."

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Mary Randolph, 64, remembers her oldest daughter's first day of school in fall 1968.

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