Late Friday, John W. Walker filed a race discrimination lawsuit on behalf of 19 plaintiffs against the Little Rock School District over practices in the maintenance and operations department. It oversees custodial services.
The lawsuit claims that the department facility is functionally segregated, with a white side housing 47 to 50 workers, a black side housing a similar number and an all-white administrative sector. It further alleges that the “white sector” is well-kept and air conditioned, in “obvious” contrast to the black sector, which is said to be poorly maintained, un-air conditioned and with hand-me-down equipment.
The suit says the history of the department is that supervisors are white. Two black foremen supervise racially identifiable work crews. Individual plaintiffs allege discriminatory personnel decisions in promotion, pay and other decisions.
The lawsuit seeks a reorganization of the department, including preferences for plaintiffs who’ve been passed over in previous decisions. and back pay for some. It also asks, among others, for a prohibition against allowing white clerical employees “supervising black persons outside their line of progression” and an end to single-race work crews.
Walker says the suit is over a long-festering situation, but he acknowledges it is symbolic as well. The School District is led by a black superintendent and a majority black school board. Black people should be held to the same standards of non-discrimination as white people, Walker said.
The suit also has obvious political elements.