Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia issued a formal apology Friday for being one of the last school systems in the nation to desegregate its schools, following a year of controversy and a probe by the state's attorney general into allegations of racism.
In a letter addressed to the Black community of Loudoun County, officials said they were sorry for their segregated schools which lasted until 1967. That's nearly 13 years after the nation’s highest court ruled on public school segregation.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1954 decision Brown v. Board of Education that public school segregation was unconstitutional, and that public schools should integrate “with all deliberate speed." A federal court order in 1967 required the Loudoun County Public Schools to fully integrate, closing the loopholes that it had previously been using for over a dozen years.
The apology is one step of the district’s 16-step action framework to address systemic racism, which the district released this summer after steeps of controversy surrounding allegedly racist policies.
In a report released June 2019 by the Equity Collaborative, a consulting firm hired by superintendent Eric Williams, students shared anecdotes of their peers use of racial slurs, unfair disciplinary policies and academic expectations.
"The N-word gets used ALL the time here," said one student, who was anonymous.
"When a kid who is misbehaving and is Black — why do you hear “that kid’s going to end up in jail someday” — but you don’t hear that about the White kids who mess up," another student said.
Later in 2019, the Virginia Office of the Attorney General sent a letter to the district announcing it was opening an investigation into the allegations outlined in the report, and accusations that the district barred Black students from equal access to advanced programs.
The state's attorney general said that the district must make available all requested records and certain personnel for interviews, according to the letter, which was attached in the superintendent's response to the request.
Virginia schoolapologizes for 'insensitive' Underground Railroad activity
Friday's letter further apologized for "negative impact, damage and disadvantages to Black students and families that were caused by decisions made" by the district, including unequal school plans and pay, as well as segregated buildings and transportation.
The school board also wrote that it "must continually assess the status of racial equity in the school system and correct its past transgressions as it pertains to race. Although we recognize that we have yet to fully correct or eradicate matters of racial inequality, we hope that issuing this apology with genuine remorse is a valuable step."
Indeed, the letter comes as the school district reports racist incidents in its virtual classrooms on the first week of school.
During the week of Sept. 8, several students used racist slurs during class and showed sexual or racist images on screens during online classes, Williams told families in an email, reported local college radio WAMU 88.5.
But this incident is far from the only racist incident in the district in recent years.
In Feb. 2019, the district's Madison's Trust Elementary School issued an apology for holding a physical education class where students in third, fourth and fifth grades pretended to be slaves while participating in an obstacle course representing the Underground Railroad.
The lesson was meant to be a cooperative exercise where students worked together to move through six stations representing parts of the Underground Railroad.
Contributing: Brett Molina, USA TODAY
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Virginia school district apologize for school segregation, racism