Racial Makeup Hangs In Balance

AP, July 29

PANAMA CITY—Black and white parents alike are complaining about a 1988 federal court desegregation order that prompted school officials to end a school choice option for Patterson Elementary School in Panama City.

The once nearly all-black school had become racially balanced under the court order until the state passed a school choice law that began letting white students leave. By 2003, the school was back to 85 percent black.

Bay County School Superintendent James McCalister ordered an end to choice at Patterson before the 2003-04 school year as he tried to bring it back into compliance with the court order. It is closer now, but some parents of both races are unhappy with the results.

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Tina Bass, a white parent, moved in with her sister so her daughters, Alyssa, 7, and Alexis, 5, would be in another school’s district after their choice applications were rejected.

“I know what part of town it’s in,” Bass said. “I heard lots of horror stories about it.”

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