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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Deal on integrated prom: 'We don't need things like this being divisive'

Gov. Nathan Deal
Gov. Nathan Deal today took his third swing at publicly addressing the integrated prom organized by several students at Wilcox County High School in South Georgia. For years, black and white students in Wilcox County have attended separate proms funded entirely by local parents, not the school board.

At first, Deal remained silent on the issue. When progressive advocacy group Better Georgia asked Deal and state lawmakers to "publicly support the students of Wilcox," Deal's spokesman Brian Robinson responded in an email to WMAZ-TV, "This is a leftist front group for the state Democratic party and we're not going to lend a hand to their silly publicity stunt." The comments caused an uproar.

On Monday, Deal's office released a statement to the AJC that the governor was "focused on reviewing ... legislation that was passed in the legislative session and bringing jobs to Georgia." It also said that Deal "trusts that local leaders will find a long-term solution that protects the equal rights of all students."

Today, Deal elaborated. The AJC's Greg Bluestein passed along these comments to his colleague Jim Galloway:

"I believe that anything that's associated with a school should not have the distinction or discrimination made based on race or gender or any other separation," he said. "But it appears to me that the parents and students have worked that out on their own, as they should."

When asked if there was anything he could do as the state's top leader to help prevent this issue from surfacing again, here's what he said:

"Probably stay out of their way. We've come a long way in the state of Georgia. We don't need things like this being divisive. We think we have put most of those issues behind us. None of us condone things that would send the wrong message about where we are with regard to race relations. But by the same token, I think that people understand that some of these are just local issues and private issues, and not something that the state government needs to have its finger involved in."

The integrated Wilcox County High School prom, which is funded by local families and contributors, is scheduled for April 27. The county's school board says it will explore the option of hosting a prom next year.

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