School System in North Carolina County Accused of Neglect, Discrimination in Suit

August 17, 2018

A lawsuit filed against a North Carolina school system and its board of education says an elementary school in need of repairs was discriminated against because of race.

The Winston-Salem Journal reports the lawsuit, filed Monday against the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools and its board of education, centers on Ashley Elementary School.

The Action4Ashley Coalition says the systems took no action to address mold and indoor air quality at the school, which is made up of predominantly black and Latino students.

“When all the evidence is considered, the District’s inadequate and sluggish response to the Ashley crisis cannot be explained by any reason other than intentional racial discrimination,” the lawsuit said. “This discrimination has had an inexcusable harmful impact on students and families of color and clearly violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.”

A school system spokesman wasn’t immediately available for comment Tuesday.

The complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights calls on the school system to order the district to build a new school. Until then, the lawsuit says students and teachers whose health is affected by current conditions should be able to transfer to another school.

According to the lawsuit, a group of teachers complained to school system officials about the conditions at Ashley in 2017. One teacher reported that mold was “literally scraped off the classroom walls and left in a trash can,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said two tests were performed at the school by the same company hired by the school system. In each instance, the company said its analysis reported very low levels of indoor mold spores.

The lawsuit also points to a $350 million bond issue which voters approved in November 2016. The bond project list included the building of new schools, replacing schools, renovations and student safety and transportation improvements.

Ashley Elementary was slated for replacement, and school officials said in 2015 that they were trying to negotiate a land deal to secure property to build a new school for Ashley. In the spring of 2016, Ashley’s new building was cut from the proposed list of bond projects, the lawsuit said.

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