Hulond Humphries fought to save his school from flames and lost. Three days later, the high school principal who opposed interracial dating at the prom lost another fight: He was reassigned.
Reversing its earlier stance, the Randolph County Board of Education voted Monday to move Humph-ries out of the post he had held for 25 years and into an administrative job in the school system's central office.He will oversee the rebuilding of the high school, which was gutted by fire over the weekend.
Humphries, 55, was out of town Monday and unavailable for comment.
The board said its action was not intended to avoid a showdown Thursday with the U.S. Justice Department, which filed a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination at the school and seeking Humphries' re-mov-al.
"The intent is simply to get on with the education of the children of this community," said school board attorney George Beck. "If this leads to a settlement of the lawsuit I would say that's a positive step."
Some former black students were skeptical.
"It's a better job than what he had, isn't it?" said restaurant cook Danny Goodman, who graduated from the high school in 1978. "They ain't done nothing."
Humphries set off a racial tempest Feb. 24 when he told students that the prom would not be held because interracial couples planned to attend. The 680-student school in east Alabama is about 38 percent black.
Humphries relented the next day and was eventually suspended for two weeks, but many black leaders demanded his ouster.
The school burned early Saturday, hours before scheduled demonstrations by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Ku Klux Klan. Police asked for a cooling-off period, and the SCLC postponed the march until Aug. 20.
State Fire Marshal John Robison said arson was just one of a number of possible causes being examined by state and federal officials.