Lawsuit blocking municipalities sparks segregation debate - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Lawsuit blocking municipalities sparks segregation debate

Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland
A meeting of the county commission A meeting of the county commission
Shelby County Commissioner Sydney Chism Shelby County Commissioner Sydney Chism

(WMC-TV) - A lawsuit to block the formation of schools in suburban Shelby County is hitting a nerve with many.

The lawsuit alleges special schools in the suburbs will return the county to segregation.

Some commissioners say the school battle is a modern day Brown versus Board of Education showdown. Others say the race card is being thrown around without warrant.

Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland is vehemently against a lawsuit filed by his peers to stop suburban schools from avoiding the merger with Memphis City Schools.

"They had their school, they surrendered their charter. So we should have the right to vote and have our own schools," said Roland.

In one of five arguments against forming special school districts, the lawsuit breaks down the suburban demographics. It says county schools would be segregated if suburban schools lock their borders.

Overall, the lawsuit calculates suburbs are 80 percent white, 13 percent black and 7 percent other.

Municipality      White       Black       Other
Germantown 90% 4% 7%
Lakeland 83% 9% 8%
Arlington      81% 14% 5%
Collierville      80% 11% 9%
Bartlett         79% 16% 5%
Millington       65% 26% 9%
TOTAL           80% 13% 7%

"It will never be right if we have separate systems that separate the races," argued Shelby County Commissioner Sydney Chism.

Chism said special school districts would go back to the "separate but equal " model before the Brown versus Board of Education Supreme Court ruling integrated schools.

"If that's all they're for is the race card, shame on them. Because that dog is not going to hunt anymore," said Roland.

Roland said if his peers do not withdraw the lawsuit, he will counter-sue for interference in municipal matters and for conjuring the lawsuit in secrecy, without a vote.

"I'm going to sue the county commission if this continues and I will use my own personal attorney," Roland said.

"He's totally wrong on that issue. When we first voted, we gave the attorney the authority to move," said Chism.

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