Fighting Words

A school dispute escalates into a racial cause celebre

Black folks who know Jackie Goetter, president of the school board in Decatur, Ill., insist that she's no bigot. But when she lashed out at Jesse Jackson last week for inserting himself into a local tempest over the expulsion of seven high school students for fighting, she sounded a bit like one--the late Leander Perez. "I really resent outsiders coming in and telling us how to run our schools," Goetter whined, conjuring up memories of the legendary segregationist's threat to bury "outside agitators" in the bayous of Louisiana's Plaquemines Parish during the 1960s. It was a lousy choice of words.

Then...

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