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Trading Places: Hiring Teachers Based on Race

In Georgia, opinions are split about a case in which black teachers were transferred so white teachers could be hired to teach in a predominantly black school.

Under an order issued by the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights, the G.W. Northcutt Elementary School in Clayton County (Ga.) transferred 19 black teachers and hired 24 white teachers in order to eliminate vestiges of past discrimination (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/6).

Prior to the transfer, Northcutt, with a student population that is 94% black, had a 68% black faculty. This year, the faculty is 66% white. School officials were forced to make the transfers or stand to lose more than $14 million in federal funding, reports the paper. According to the office of civil rights, a faculty "must not deviate by more than 10 percent from the systemwide racial breakdown for teachers," writes the paper.

The move caused upheaval in the school. "If you are a teacher, you are prepared to teach wherever," said Nancy Wilson, a black teacher who was not transferred last year. "I wish people would stop putting emphasis on color, because when you're teaching, you're teaching the child, not the color of the child."

Other parents said they felt the black teachers related better to their children. Clayton County schools Superintendent Joe Hairston said the transfer helped shake up a system that needed to make radical changes anyway, reports the paper. He also remarked that his students needed exposure to "people from various backgrounds to broaden their perspectives," writes the paper.

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