Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) issued an apology for operating segregated schools and for resisting efforts to integrate their schools for over a decade after the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education that made segregated schools illegal. The apology is part of the district’s “Action Plans to Combat Systemic Racism.” The apology coincides with the 57th anniversary of the 1963 march where Martin Luther King, Jr. declared, “I have a dream.”
“[T]he additional effort required and resources provided by the Black community to obtain an equal education created hardships to which other community members were not subjected. Black people were denied rights and equal treatment,” the apology letter states.
An accompanying video described the history of LCPS segregation and featured prominent Black leaders from the community. Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall said, “For many, many years, the Board of Supervisors was funding a school system that was separate and unequal, and they knew all that came with that.” Randall added, “The apology itself doesn’t change much, but the recognition that something happened that shouldn’t have happened is important.”
“The biggest hope is that you never have to apologize again,” Leesburg Elementary Principle Shawn Lacey said in the video. “Let’s allow the apology to serve as a true foundation for growth, a foundation that you can look back to in two, three years, and [say], ‘I never would have thought that this county was one that had to apologize for things. I never would have thought that people were being mistreated in this area,’ based on the actions that follow the apology. ”
Ann Jimerson is the co-chair of Desegregation of Virginia Education (DOVE), an organization focused on preserving records of Virginia’s school desegregation process.”The point of a genuine apology is that actions would follow,” Jimerson told The Virginia Star. She added, “Though an apology is not itself sufficient, I agree with Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, and this is a quote from their website: ‘Publicly confronting the truth about our history is the first step towards recovery and reconciliation.'”
Jimerson said Virginia played a large role in segregation. “I would see this Loudoun County apology as an opportunity to get back into that outsize role that Virginia has played and set an example for how apologies can be made as a step toward reconciliation.”
However, the local branch of the NAACP has expressed concerns about the apology. Robin Burke, Chair of the Education Committee, shared a series of emails with The Virginia Star.
In one email sent before the apology was published, branch President Michelle Thomas told Loudoun County officials:
As victims of racism and discrimination, with its beginnings in segregated education, it is unconscionable for the abuser to ask the victim to provide assistance in writing an apology for the abuse. The NAACP demands an immediate cease and desist of any and all public media release regarding segregated education, the purchase of the Douglass School or the resistance by the School Board and Superintendent to integrate by Loudoun County Public Schools on the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington.
On Monday, Loudoun County School Board Stephen DeVita replied, “LCPS understands that an apology does not make things right. LCPS is committed to taking actions to address systemic racism. With all due respect for the views expressed by the NAACP, LCPS plans to proceed with making a public statement today regarding its plan for a formal apology. The statement will include references to the importance of action to improve equity and eliminate racism in its schools. LCPS invited several stakeholders, including the NAACP Loudoun Branch, to provide input regarding specific topics that could not go unaddressed in the apology.”
According to the AP, Thomas does not think the apology is genuine. “We feel it is more word than action,” Thomas said.
Watch the full video:
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