Arkansas Civil Rights

Little Rock School District Superintendent Mike Poore (file photo).
Chris Hickey / KUAR News

The tumult in the Little Rock School District, which is under state control, continues in the new year with plans to close or re-purpose four schools. KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman spoke with Superintendent Mike Poore about the future of the district and the legitimacy of state control.

Topics also include: a special election to continue a tax, the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act, the impact to charter schools in the district, and the return of local control.

Last week Little Rock School District  Superintendent, Michael Poore, announced four school closings. Meanwhile, Dr. Anika Whitfield of the community group Save Our Schools thinks the outcry would be louder if people didn't fear their job or school would be the next in line for cuts.

“Some of the teachers and some of the parents at other schools....I believe it’s not that they don’t necessarily care, I sense a fear of 'if we speak up or speak out it could be our school next.'”

Chris Hickey / KUAR News

Will this be the year Arkansas will end the official recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert E. Lee on the same day? Gov. Asa Hutchinson hopes it is, as do Democratic lawmakers. Several local and state leaders used the national MLK holiday on Monday to call for a change.

Following the Little Rock NAACP’s annual MLK “Marade,” or March/Parade to the State Capitol, the organization took to the building’s rotunda to honor King and remind people of work still left to be done to repair the damage of systemic racism and injustice in society.

Several of the state’s top politicians – all of whom are white - celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at the predominately African-American St. Mark Baptist Church in Little Rock. Governor Asa Hutchinson recounted first seeing King on television in his youth and indirectly rebuffed President-elect Trump’s disparagement of a different, still living Civil Rights icon.

Governor Hutchinson, a Republican from the small town of Gravette in northwest Arkansas, recounted how as a junior high school student he first came to learn of King.

The Confederate soldiers monument at the state Capitol.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

'Heritage not hate' is an oft heard refrain from Arkansans working to protect the state's dual observance of Robert E. Lee and Martin Luther King, Jr. But throughout 2015 and 2016 long-established heritage groups, like the Sons of Confederate Veterans, overlapped and interacted with modern-day Southern, white nationalist groups like the League of the South on numerous occasions.

State Rep. Charles Blake (D-Little Rock) testifying to end the joint observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert E. Lee. (2015 file photo)
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Heading into Arkansas's concurrent observances of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Robert E. Lee Day some lawmakers were predicting this could be the last year for the joint state holiday. But despite the backing of the state's Republican governor, no one has stepped forward to carry the legislation.

File photo. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R).
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The office of Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on Wednesday (Jan. 4) asked a federal judge to issue a temporary stay on a case before the U.S. District Court in Harrison questioning the constitutionality of the state’s landlord tenant rules, or wait until the upcoming legislation session is over before moving forward with court hearings.

Ted Bonner
KATV, Channel 7 News

The Arkansas NAACP and several residents are calling for the resignation of a school board member in eastern Arkansas after photos surfaced of him in blackface while holding a sign referring to the Black Lives Matter movement.

NAACP members and others demanded Ted Bonner's resignation Monday during a Blevins School Board meeting. But the board's president, Justice West, says there's no mechanism for removing Bonner, who has refused to resign. Bonner has two years left in his term.

A national trucking company has agreed to pay $260,000 to settle discrimination complaints by four Sikh truckers who were denied jobs for refusing drug tests that violated their religious beliefs.

J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. reached the settlement being announced Tuesday with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The Sikh Coalition, a civil rights organization that represented the men, says the trucking company required three men to clip their hair for drug samples and required a fourth to remove his turban before providing a urine sample.

Arkansas is asking the nation's highest court to not review a decision upholding the state's lethal injection law, saying the nine death row inmates challenging the ruling have not raised a federal claim in the case.

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