Accusations fly in schools controversy

June 23, 2010 3:53:03 PM PDT
From accusations of racism to questions about sexuality, the tension between certain members of the Wake County School Board and the North Carolina NAACP is escalating.

The two sides are at odds over Wake School's diversity policy. The new majority on the board elected last fall has voted to do away with busing to promote diversity. It says the decades old system fails minority students and it wants students to go to classrooms closer to their homes. It's a move the NAACP claims will result in resegregated schools.

The NAACP has vowed to fight. It's threatened a lawsuit and State NAACP President William Barber and other protestors were handcuffed and taken to jail after they staged a sit-in at a school board meeting last week.

One of those other protestors - respected author, historian, and Duke scholar Tim Tyson - spoke at an NAACP rally after the arrest. Some say hand gestures and comments he made when referring to school board member John Tedesco could have implied Tedesco is gay.

Tedesco told ABC11 he's straight and he says he's not a racist as he said he feels his critics have suggested.

"The more and more they persecute me, the more I feel I must be on the right track," he offered.

He detailed his background in an e-mail to the four arrested last week who organized Monday's meeting.

He wrote that he's had relationships with African-American women and has helped countless African-American young people. He says he's asked the NAACP to join his committee to help economically disadvantaged students and they've said no.

"I've offered to talk with them. I've said, 'if you really care about our kids, talk with me,'" said Tedesco.

For his part, Tyson says he was not suggesting Tedesco is gay.

"I was referring to John Tedesco being an intellectual lightweight. I was in no way attacking Mr. Tedesco's sexuality. I don't have any knowledge or thoughts about his sexuality," he said.

Tyson added that his two sisters are gay and he's worked towards gay rights and participated in gay pride parades.

In his e-mail, Tedesco once again blasted Barber for emulating Dr. Martin Luther King's famous 1963 letter from the Birmingham Jail with a letter of his own. Barber's letter quotes King and Henry David Thoreau, saying civil disobedience was justified.

Click here to read Barber's letter

"You all have publicly declared yourselves the modern Martin Luther King Jr. and Henry David Thoreau - Are you serious?" wrote Tedesco. "You think you could hold the shadows of these giants? Now you mock the real trials of the beloved Dr. King with a mock set of letters from a Wake County Jail? How dare you?"

The NAACP is planning another protest outside the school board's next big meeting next month. It's encouraging people to get arrested if they have to - in order to get the busing for diversity policy reinstated.

Security staff is already preparing for a big turnout.

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