Chris Buttars

Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared public school segregation unconstitutional, was "wrong to begin with," state Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, said in a radio interview Monday.

The lawmaker responded to questions from reporter Tom Grover for 30 minutes on the news magazine "For The People" on Logan radio station KVNU-AM.

Buttars, who plans to introduce a bill in the 2007 Legislature that would allow the Senate to remove a state judge from office at the end of the jurist's term, spoke on a variety of issues concerning the nation's judicial system.

When Grover mentioned that "courts are the way for those in the minority ... to ensure (their) rights are protected," Buttars responded with the following:

"I don't understand that at all. You give me an example. I don't know of any example where the minority is being jeopardized by legislative action."

When Grover mentioned Brown v. Board of Education as an example, Buttars said: "Well, I think Brown v. Board of Education is wrong to begin with. That's a whole other subject. Call me again and take a half-hour to talk about that."

Jeanetta Williams, president of the Salt Lake branch of the NAACP, said Monday night that Buttars' comments seemed to show a misunderstanding of the civil rights movement, which she said was propelled by the monumental Brown v. Board ruling.

"We've always had to fight and win our battles in the courts," she said. "For him or anyone else to say the court system isn't needed, they don't know the court system and they don't understand the history of civil rights."

Williams said she wished Buttars would have explained what he meant by his comments. She said if it hadn't been for court cases such as Brown v. Board, African-Americans and other minorities in this country might still face segregation. She pointed to the recent push to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act as evidence that the civil rights movement is an ongoing effort.

"All the things we fought for, we fought in the courtroom and we still have to lobby," she said.

Michael Clara, past chair of the Coalition for Minorities Advisory Committee, a group that advises the state Board of Education, said Buttars' comments seemed to indicate a "narrow-minded, myopic" view by some lawmakers who seem to misunderstand the role of the courts in civil rights and education.

"It's an indication of the ignorance some legislators have toward the plight of minority students," he said. "In this case, we have one who suffers from historical amnesia."

Contributing: Wendy Leonard

E-mail: [email protected]; [email protected]