Biloxi NAACP Accuses Biloxi School District Of Discrimination

"We're going back to segregated schools within our school system," said James Crowell, President of the Biloxi NAACP.

During a news conference Friday afternoon, Crowell claimed the Biloxi School District is breaking its promise to integrate schools. Crowell pointed to a higher ratio of black students at Nichols and Gorenflo Elementary schools, while schools in West and north Biloxi have more white children.

"We're going back to what we had in the early 50's and 60's," Crowell said.

Crowell wants the district to start bussing students to different campuses, to balance the population.  He also raised allegations of white coaches getting higher raises than black coaches, and brought up what he calls "discriminatory hiring practices".

"I know of two positions that we had black applicants to apply for in the Biloxi School District, where they were turned down by the Biloxi School District," Crowell said. "They had the qualifications and they were hired by another school district."

The Biloxi NAACP wants the district to open the door of opportunity to more minorities. The organization claims several black administrators who were seeking higher positions were overlooked by the district.  Members also say that plans are underway to demote several administrative positions currently held by African Americans.

"The fact that anybody, anywhere, thinks that we're discriminating, because we don't hire individuals that they would prefer to see hired, is merely an opinion," said Dr. Paul Tisdale, Biloxi School Superintendent.

Dr. Tisdale says he hires teachers based on their qualifications, not skin color, and his staff actively tries to recruit black teachers.

Dr. Tisdale says he's puzzled that the NAACP has a problem with the student enrollment. He says the NAACP approved the attendance zones, when the integration court order was dissolved several years ago.  As for the coach raises, he says the percentage is based on how much money their sport makes.   He says football coaches will make more than basketball coaches.

"I'm really amazed under the circumstances that the president of the NAACP didn't speak with me before he made the issues public," Dr. Tisdale said.

But, Crowell says his organization has brought these concerns before the superintendent and school board numerous times.

"There's a possibly we may file suit against the Biloxi School District again," Crowell said.

"I'd like to get the best possible teachers we can for the children of the district," said Dr.Tisdale. "It bothers me that we're playing politics with teaching positions, with administrative positions.  And to say that we're anything less than proactive is not accurate, and I think to some extent ignored the facts."

Dr. Tisdale says he is working to restructure positions and responsibilities within the district. But the final plan has not been submitted to the school board. The NAACP is waiting to see if the plan will affect any black administrators, before it takes any legal action.

By: Trang Pham-Bui