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Fla. Klan Urges Teachers To Fight Transfer Orders

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More than 120 teachers in the Jacksonville, Fla., area have received a letter from a state Ku Klux Klan leader urging them to fight a federal court order designed to make the staffs of the county's schools more racially balanced.

The letter, signed by John B. Baumgardner, state director of the Invisible Empire, was postmarked May 1 and delivered to teachers who were targeted for possible transfers under the court-ordered desegregation plan.

The plan, issued recently in connection with a decades-old school-desegregation case, gives teachers the option of volunteering for an assignment in another school or facing a possible transfer, said David Hertz, general counsel for Duval Teachers United, the local teachers' union.

"It is my understanding that you are about to be transferred against your wishes in a federal inspired program designed to achieve 'racial balance,"' began the letter, printed on stationery bearing the letterhead of the organization's international headquarters in North Carolina.

"Communist-backed organizations that like to work behind closed doors ... are ultimately harming the children they profess to be protecting," it said. "Why not join with your fellow teachers and oppose this evil mandate?"

The missive shocked and offended a number of teachers, who reported it to the union, the district administration, and the local newspapers.

"When you come to work first thing in the morning and you go to the mailbox and see something directed to you from the Klan, it can be quite a shock," Mr. Hertz said. He said the organization had not been active in that part of the state in decades. The letters had been mailed from Orlando.

"But teachers are smart people," Mr. Hertz added, "once they got over the initial shock of it, they just trash-canned it and ignored it."

He noted the letter was sent following publication of the teachers' names in a local newspaper.--dv

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