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White Maryland Student Indicted in Black Army Officer’s Murder

(Reuters) — A grand jury indicted a white former University of Maryland student for murder on Thursday in the stabbing death of a Black U.S. Army officer that is still being investigating as a possible hate crime, authorities said.

Sean Urbanski, 22, of Severna Park, Md., who was a member of a racist Facebook group, was indicted for common-law murder over the on-campus death of Lt. Richard Collins III in May, said John Erzen, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County state’s attorney.

The soldier lost his life in America’s ongoing battle with racism.

“Right now, the investigation into the motive, including whether it was a hate crime, is still ongoing,” Erzen said in a telephone interview.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was helping police analyze Urbanski’s digital devices. “We expect that to conclude in the coming weeks,” Erzen said.

Witnesses have told police that an intoxicated and incoherent Urbanski approached Collins and two friends on a campus sidewalk early on May 20.

He told Collins, who had been commissioned as a lieutenant a few days before, “Step left, step left if you know what’s good for you.”

When a puzzled Collins said, “No,” Urbanski stabbed him in the chest. Collins, 23, died a few days before he was to graduate from Maryland’s Bowie State University.

Richard Collins III was murdered on the University of Maryland’s College Park campus where American Vanguard distributed racist propaganda.

Police arrested Urbanski on the University of Maryland campus in a Washington suburb.

A police investigation showed that Urbanski was part of the Alt-Reich group on Facebook, where members post disparaging material about African Americans, Jews and others.

Erzen said prosecutors planned to seek life without parole for Urbanski, who remains jailed without bond. His attorney, William Brennan, did not respond to a request for comment.

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Why are Wealthy White Communities Forming Their Own School Districts?

Educational segregation is not a thing of the past but rather is alive and well more than six decades since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Back then, Jim Crow segregation created separate and unequal education, and dictated that white public schools would receive more resources. Today, race and economics intersect as wealthy white communities are forming their own school districts.

As was reported in US News, some states allow communities to break off and form their own districts, taking their tax dollars with them and siphoning off crucial financial resources from schools in low-income areas that are more diverse and where communities and children are more vulnerable. The nonprofit group EdBuild, which deals with educational funding and equity, recently released a report called Fractured: The Breakdown of America’s School Districts. The report found that 30 states have laws on the books to allow small towns to secede from larger communities. Across the nation, 71 localities have attempted such a move and 47 have succeeded since 2000.

One good example of this secession movement is taking place in Alabama, which makes it particularly easy for communities to secede. For example, a federal court has allowed the town of Gardendale, a white, middle-class section of Jefferson County, to break off from the rest of their current school district for the purposes of, as the mayor articulated, “keeping our tax dollars here with our kids, rather than sharing them with kids all over Jefferson County.” The new school district would serve a student population of 2,000 that is 22 percent nonwhite and 7 percent low income. In contrast, throughout Jefferson County, one fifth of the children are impoverished and the majority are nonwhite.

Another example is Shelby County, Tenn., in the Memphis area. After six communities seceded from Shelby County, its budget was cut by one-fifth, seven schools were closed and hundreds of teachers were laid off. Tennessee, as US News noted, has one of the most relaxed secession policies, requiring only 1,500 students and the vote of a majority of people in the municipality.

When well-to-do white school districts break off from their larger, poorer and darker areas, they take the resources and the tax base with them. The report noted that 21 of the 30 states allowing secession require action by voters, while 21 require approval by a state authority. Three states require a constitutional amendment and only one state requires the state legislature to take action. Only six of these states must consider racial and socioeconomic factors, and nine must consider the impact on funding.

The concept of school district secession harkens back to the days of the segregation academies or Christian academies, private schools founded by whites after the Brown desegregation decision to avoid having their children attend school with Black children. Over the years, as The Daily Beast found, these white academies had to move beyond the whites-only rationalization for their existence, adding the rationale that they needed to combat “secular humanism” and liberalism, even as the importance of race remained. These private white schools remain, their student bodies remaining overwhelmingly white and wealthy, with few or no Black students.

Educational segregation is on the increase in America. As Frontline reported, data from the UCLA Civil Rights Project showed that in the South, the percentage of Black students in majority white schools went from zero to a high of 43.5 percent in 1988. By 2011, the number had reverted to 1968 levels at 23.2 percent. This is important because the UCLA figures demonstrate a high correlation between segregation and poverty. Over half of the children in the poorest schools are Black and Latino, translating into lower-quality teachers, supplies and facilities. “In many respects, the schools serving white and Asian students and those serving Black and Latino students represent two different worlds,” the UCLA researchers said.

“Segregation is typically segregation by both race and poverty. Black and Latino students tend to be in schools with a substantial majority of poor children, but white and Asian students are typically in middle-class schools,” the UCLA report noted. “Segregation is by far the most serious in the central cities of the largest metropolitan areas, but it is also severe in central cities of all sizes and suburbs of the largest metro areas, which are now half nonwhite. Latinos are significantly more segregated than Blacks in suburban America.”

The nation’s system of education does not provide opportunity in an equitable manner. The problem of economic disparities among school districts arises when one considers the manner in which schools are funded in America. As The Atlantic reported, education is financed based on the money available within a given district, which may or may not correlate with the amount of resources necessary to effectively teach children. School funding is locally based, and the federal government supplies 8-9 percent of school budgets through programs such as school lunch and Head Start, with state and local government making up the balance, with the particular formula depending on each state. Throughout the country, poor districts spend 15.6-percent less than districts of greater means, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Greater school expenditures lead to students completing more education, higher earnings and lower poverty as adults, as the National Bureau of Economic research found.

UCLA makes a number of recommendations. For example, they suggest that civil rights organizations develop strategies and legal tactics to reverse the trend of educational segregation. The federal government can set the tone in setting national policy and providing for equity in the schools, and states should aggressively recruit Black and Latino teachers. The report also urges that HUD do more to address housing re-segregation, including a joint project with the Justice and Education Departments to support integration in communities and schools in gentrifying cities and racially shifting suburbs.

“We recommend substantial expansion of magnet school funding, strong civil rights policies for charter schools, serious incentives for regional collaboration and teacher training for diverse and racially changing schools,” the report added.

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African American Organizations and CLB Condemn ‘Racist' Judicial Council Party Pics

People getting busted for hosting parties based on racial stereotypes is nothing new. But it's not something that you expect from a legal organization that's supposed to stand for impartiality in the law. But that's what happened when photos leaked of a Halloween party thrown by the Judicial Council of California. The Judicial Council is the policymaking arm of the California courts. Its goal is to be an independent and impartial administration of justice.

According to a report from the San Francisco ABC affiliate, the party featured stereotypical images of people of color depicted as prisoners. Some of the male staff members dressed as a transgender character from the TV show, "Orange is the New Black."

News of the Judicial Council's party has sparked a political uproar from Black organizations and legislators.

"I am deeply disturbed by the reprehensible, racist and poor judgment the Judicial Council displayed at a Halloween party last year," said Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D- Carson), a member of Legislative Black Caucus and Chair of Democratic Caucus. "For a public policymaking body that is equipped with the responsibility of fair access to the courts, it is highly disappointing that a group of judicial staff members would put down a race simply to win a contest. It is never okay to engage in stereotypical behavior or homophobic mockery, all while distributing offensive photos over a public server for ridicule.”

“I stand with the NAACP and am calling on the Judicial Council for a sincere public apology and an immediate reprimand of these senseless actions. This is demeaning, discriminatory, and sends the negative message that black people and members of the LGBTQ community are bad people.Although the damage is done and the seed is planted, and quite possibly for years to come, we will not tolerate bias from a department whose responsibility is that of justice for all. This action will not go unchallenged," said Gipson.

The California Capitol Black Staff Association released a statement condemning the images.

"As public servants who work for a public body created to provide equitable access to California's courts, it is shameful that these individuals chose to engage, on state time, in a type of hate speech that depicts dangerous stereotypes that have haunted the Black population in America since slavery," said the California Capitol Black Staff Association.

According to the ABC report, Michael Roosevelt, an employee of the Judicial Council, said the images make a mockery of the organization's goals.

"Here you've got the image of people who work for and support the courts who are dressed in prison garb, darkening their faces, depicting a prison setting where disproportionately those people who are incarcerated are people of color," said Roosevelt.

The Alliance of California Judges said the incident proves the Judicial Council needs to be reformed.

"If the Chief Justice won't restructure the Judicial Council, so its judicial members are elected by their peers, then it's high time for the Legislature to take control of the judicial branch funds away from the Judicial Council and place those funds in the hands of a trial budget commission consisting of trial judges elected by their peers," said the Alliance of California Judges in a press statement.

The pictures were also condemned by Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena,) chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus.

"The racist actions of those associated with the Judicial Council are shameful!" said Holden.

Dr. Amos Brown, national board member and president of San Francisco NAACP, who first learned about the incident from a Bay Area reporter said, "This should be a wake-up call for Blacks in this state. Blacks make up 6 percent of the California’s population but 45 to 50 percent of the inmate population." Brown suggested an “ignorance of Black history” was the reason these employees could host a party in such poor taste.

Brown said he credited the executive director for the written apology discipline actions that have not been announced, but still feels like the damage has been done.

Third Baptist Church in San Francisco will be meeting with judges from the San Francisco Superior Court area on Aug. 23 to discuss how to work together so the criminal justice systems can embody justice and restorative justice for the African American community and the greater community.

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