Superintendent Edward J. Feeney, responding to accusations by the NAACP that Prince George's County has never fully implemented a 1972 federal court desegregation order, testified today that the county's schools are "fully integrated in every aspect."
The silver-haired superintendent toldU.S. District Court Judge Frank A. Kaufman that he has appointed blacks to management and supervisory positions, attempted to reduce the number of blacks suspended and worked to improve declining test scores in the year's following Kaufman's sweeping order.
Feeney said that shortly after he moved up to superintendent in 1976 he appointed 57 black principals and assistant principals, compared with 70 whites, because he felt that "local schools needed black leadership in each building."
Feeney is the last scheduled witness for the defense in a civil action that has dragged on since May 3. The NAACP is seeking to have the school system, the 13th largest in the nation, adjust racial balance in individual schools to conform to the present enrollment, which is 52 percent black in the 116,000-student system, while the schools have argued that they needed only to comply with guidelines established when the black enrollment was 34 percent of the total.
"I wanted to know if there were people in the schools who were disciplining black youngsters without good reason," Feeney said. He promoted veteran black school administrator Parthenia Pruden to director of pupil services, the area in charge of discipline among other things, and directed her to examine the record of black suspensions. School statistics show that blacks received twice the number of suspensions as whites last year, but Feeney said the Pruden examination did not reveal a racial cause for the suspensions. Rather, Feeney said that suspended students tended to have problems with course work. As a result the schools began an in-school suspension program in which disciplined students are given class assignments to be completed in a detention room with aid and supervision of a teacher.
By reducing the large number of reading series books in the county to three and printing special books for slow readers on the school's own presses, Feeney said he was able to halt the decline in average scores on standardized tests in the county.
"They had begun to go downward at a steady pace--it bothered me that some people said it was associated with desegregation," Feeney told the court.
Feeney took as his example the scores at the Owens Road Elementary school that exceeded national averages in 1979. Owens Road was 87 percent black that year and has been cited as a school whose neighborhood demographic changes resisted attempts to stably integrate it.
Lawyers for the NAACP have introduced statistics to support their accusations that a disproportionate number of the county's schools are overwhelmingly black as a result of inaction as well as some specific actions by the school board. Their figures also show that blacks are more likely to be disciplined, more likely to be placed in classes for the mentally handicapped and less likely to be placed in classes for the gifted than white students.
The school board has maintained that sharp increases in the county's black population during the 1970s are the cause of high black concentrations in many schools, and that decisions on student placement and discipline that resulted in the disparate figures on discipline, special education classes were based on educational judgments, not discriminatory intent.