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Pressure Spurs 2 Richmond Schools To Stop Clustering White Students

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Two Richmond, Va., elementary schools have agreed to stop clustering white students in the same classrooms in response to complaints from parents and pressure from the district's central administration.

Willis B. McLeod, an associate superintendent of the Richmond schools, last week said officials at Bellevue Model School and Ginter Park Elementary School will implement new student-assignment plans when the spring term begins early next month.

Both schools agreed last month to reassign white students who had been clustered together after being urged to do so by school board members and Superintendent Lucille M. Brown, Mr. McLeod said.

At Ginter Park, district officials said, the clustering occurred because school administrators allowed parents to select their children's teacher.

At Bellevue, the principal, Syvia Richardson, who is black, told district officials in a letter that white students were being grouped together for "social and emotional reasons.'' She said the practice had been going on in Richmond schools for several years.

According to Mr. McLeod, many of the city's schools grouped white students together in classes in the 1970's to try to stem the "white flight'' that occurred in response to a federal court order to desegregate.

He said the practice was intended to keep white students who were minorities in schools from feeling racially isolated.

The district had no written policy requiring clustering, however, and officials assumed the practice died out in the early 1980's, he said.

Carolyn T. Slayton, the president of Bellevue's parent-teacher association, said she had no qualms about the practice. The 452-student school, whose enrollment is about 10 percent white and 90 percent black, has no racial problems, she said, adding that "resources, as far as race is concerned, were always equally distributed.''

Parent's Complaint

Hylan Q. Carter Jr., the parent of a Bellevue student who brought the clustering practice to the attention of the school board, characterized the grouping as "separation, if not segregation.''

Similar complaints have been lodged periodically in other districts across the nation. Clustering is difficult to detect, however, and desegregation experts said last week that they had little idea of how widespread it is.

Andrena E. Ray, the superintendent of Sumter District 17 in Sumter, S.C., said last week that she told officials at an elementary school to stop clustering its few white students in October after a parent complained and federal officials discouraged the practice.

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