NEWTON, Ga. — Representatives of the Baker County Community Council, led by community activist Shirley Sherrod, met with Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens Wednesday morning to discuss their concerns regarding the Baker County School Board.
"Baker County has a long history of racial inequality," said Sherrod, "and there is a new school board in the county that has increased the racial tensions in our community. It has to stop.
"What is most distressing is that the board is paying no attention to what all this is doing to our children and their learning."
In a news release issued Wednesday, the group wrote, "The Baker County School Board, having recently changed from a predominantly black to a majority white board, has raised numerous questions even regarding the election of some of the board members themselves and the parameters of the voting districts."
Group spokeswoman Nettie Lilly said the group enjoyed a productive meeting with Olens.
"We took a busload of people from Baker County and Dougherty County and had a very good meeting with the attorney general this morning," Lilly said. "We discussed the lack of open meetings and open records by the Baker County School Board, but our main concern is safety in our schools. The principal (Torrance Choates) is ignoring parents' concerns in regard to bullying.
"Quite frankly, we are scared for the safety of our children."
In the news release, the group contends there is a number of potential violations enacted by the School Board, yet to be affirmed, including a breach of Georgia's Open Meetings Act, possible first amendment violations due to the board not allowing requests for input from the community at a meeting, firing of teachers that might violate equal protection laws and altering of school district lines to elect school board members that might violate the Voting Rights Act.
The issue came to a head recently when the School Board fired teachers Mabel Rogers and Sandra Jones after the two were involved in an anti-Choates demonstration in the school hallway.
Jones is Sherrod's sister.
"The School Board's biased decision-making and noncompliance of board policies is unacceptable. We want to bring attention to the board's practices, disparities and inappropriate actions," the release added. "With the recent firing of the superintendent, the assistant principal and some of the best teachers within the system, our students are suffering. We are requesting that the newly hired principal, who is responsible for these firings, be removed from his position."