Religious and Family Freedom and the Wake County School Board

Friday, May 25, 2007

It is with mixed emotions that I write this. My mind runs over questions without easy answers. What are the bonds within families worth? What is the value of a close relationship with a sibling?

Over a year ago, the Wake County School Board denied our request to allow our daughters to continue to attend high school together for emotional and religious reasons. Next week my daughters graduate from the school year they have both spent at high school, only one grade apart and yet at different schools.

I think back to the many years Amber and Brittany have attended school together. They would breathlessly run in the door to show off their school work. The many years Rhonda and I would come and attend school functions together and watch one, then the other, and many times both either perform or be awarded.

I remember the difficult year when Amber graduated to middle school while Brittany stayed in elementary. Brittany was concerned that she wouldn’t be with her sister any more. This would be the first time she attended school without her sister being down the hall. I assured her then, they would only be separated by a couple walls. They were still attending on the same school campus, just in different buildings.

I think fondly of coming to school to eat lunch together, Dad and his two little girls. The teacher scolding because I brought pizza and soda, and that “fun foods” should only be brought for an entire class. The grins on the girls’ faces. How they have grown since those days.

I can also see the results of the past year wearing on us. Although Brittany has done remarkably well by any academic measure at Holly Springs High, being admitted to the North Carolina Governor’s School is just one example, there are other costs more difficult to measure. I can plainly see a distance which has grown between members of our family as only time, distance, and differing goals can create. Can you remember high school rivalry? Who do you cheer for when your two daughters each encourage a different team? Which performance do you attend when they both perform on the same night? How do you explain these things to your daughter?

I remember the nights, not long past, of Brittany first asking in tears for us to never give up our efforts to bring her back to Middle Creek High with Amber, and then other evenings where she begged to remain at Holly Springs High, later to have her reverse her request again.

I remember the stress and strain in trying to find rides for Brittany to get to early morning gospel study, “seminary” and school, while Amber driving the vehicle we purchased to transport them both rode off alone. We were often left as anxious parents while I would travel out of town on business and Rhonda would be left trying to work out arrangements by herself. I felt both gratitude to the others that assisted us and shame for my inability to provide what I felt I should be able to.

After many conversations with my wife and daughters we have come to conclude that to continue to fight this decision of the school board comes at a higher cost to our family than to make one final transfer request for the coming school year and let the decision stand.

There is, of course, some pain in this. Only a week ago, our request to the school board that we would drop the suit if only the two girls could attend school together next year was again denied by vote of the board. This is at least the sixth time that the school board has made this decision. A friend recently told us that being a trailblazer is hard. It is.

At the same time, I won’t say that this is all turmoil and bitterness. There is honestly a peace in our hearts as we close this chapter in our lives. We would never have done this if we didn’t feel it was important for our family and that it was what was the right thing to do. We do not make this decision now except that we feel it is what is right.

I look at my daughters and I can hardly imagine the potential and possibilities of my daughters’ future lives. Amber graduates from high school next year, and Brittany the year after. I marvel at their ability to succeed and excel regardless of the challenges placed before them.

I am grateful for the many letters and calls of support and encouragement from parents all across Wake County. I am thankful for parents around Wake County who call and write the school board, government representatives, and media to work to change the system so that it can serve the families of the area better – those who not only suggest and criticize, but show up for public meetings and to vote, even on non-Presidential election years. I am grateful for members of the media around the region who have listened intently to our story and made it known. My respect for the parents and employees of the media companies of the area has certainly grown through this experience.

I am grateful to the representatives in the North Carolina State House who have heard our story and worked to change the state law to allow school boards overburdened with school transfer requests and parents the option to have their transfer hearing with those with more time and focus.

But mostly, I am grateful for my family and faith that sustain me through the good and bad in life. I express my deepest thanks and gratitude to my wife and daughters and to my Lord and Savior.

And yet, I can’t help but ponder the question in my mind – what value should be given to our relationships within family and with siblings, and what is the role of school and government in protecting them? I hope you feel as I do, that they are priceless and that they should protected above all else.

- David Bailey

Thursday, May 10, 2007


I'm excited to announce that the Education Committee heard and approved House Bill 488 today. That means the next stop is a vote by the full House.

A few representatives from both parties spoke positively about the bill and, at this point, I believe it will pass the House.

This bill allows the school board to opt to delegate some of their authority to a hearing officer on their behalf, when both parties (the board and parent) agree, to assist with the overwhelming issue of the potential hundreds of school reassignment appeals and typically only several school board members. Because the change of school board committee to hearing officer is optional, not mandatory, I believe it would help both overwhelmed school boards, but even more importantly, parents who feel they need more time and attention than the school board members can offer.

A big thanks to Rep. Stam (Wake) and Rep. Gulley (Mecklenburg) and to their staff for their work on this bill! And a big thanks to my dear wife, Rhonda, who showed me the North Carolina General Statute that got me thinking, and ultimately led me to have a conversation with my friend Brian Lehrschall, legislative assistant for Rep. Gulley, and our House representative, Skip Stam, who took quick action on this important issue. Also, we couldn't have gotten the bill on the committee schedule without the help of the Education Committee Chairs, Reps. Bell and Lucas.



I've been requested to be present for the committee hearing of House Bill 488 which would allow school boards in North Carolina the ability to delegate some of the responsibility for hearing reassignment appeals rather than being forced to hear them themselves.

In the Wake County School System, the reassignment of high school students for the 2006-07 school year caused thousands of appeals of which, the school board had to hear over 1,000 appeals. The North Carolina General Statute 115C-369 requires that person seeking reassignment is "entitled to a prompt and fair hearing". The issue is that when there are nine school board members and thousands of appeals, you get the kind of system that we were subjected to- two minute hearings.

Trying to explain why it is important to a family to have a student assigned to a school in two minutes is just not feasible. Simply saying hello and getting started takes around 15-30 seconds.

This means that issues such as physical disability or other quickly explained situations get a relatively fair hearing and psychological, emotional, or religious beliefs issues are forced into trite quips that simply don't do the circumstances justice.

If school boards are unable to find policies that meet the needs of more parents, as WCPSS claims, or allocate more personal time to the hearings, as WCPSS also claims, then it should be possible by law for them to delegate the appeal hearings to someone qualified to allow a better appeals process.

State law recognizes the school board appeals process as an administrative court of sorts. Appeals to their decisions go directly to the Wake County Superior Court, rather than to the District Court.

Since this is the case, a forced two-minute appeal for the well-being of their son or daughter is something no one should have to endure.



Tuesday, May 01, 2007


I wanted to let you know that we are filing an appeal with the Superior Court in Wake County.

After a great deal of discussion with my dear wife, we have decided that the School Board did not follow the judge's order to rehear the case and consider the needs of our daughter.

Also, on the legislative front, House Bill 488 seeks to allow large school districts the option of delegating the responsibility of personally hearing every appeal, including re-assignment appeals, so that the thousands of reassignment appeals that often occur in large districts won't overwhelm the school board and end up limiting you to only two minutes of speaking time, as is the case in Wake County. Please contact your representatives in the house to encourage them to support it.

I will put more information up as I have it.


David Bailey