Oak Ridge educator honored for community involvement, work to preserve desegregation history

Education

John Spratling, right, and his wife Vanessa.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) — A longtime Oak Ridge educator is being honored for his work by the Tennessee Council for Social Studies.

John Spratling received the Civil Rights & Liberties Excellence in Teaching Award this past week from John Kenna, president of the TN Council for Social Studies and professor at the University of Tennessee. The award honors Spratling for his “outstanding contributions as a teacher and
community leader” and his efforts to teach students about the desegregation of Oak Ridge High School in September 1955.

Spratling teaches fifth grade Social Studies at Robertsville Middle School and has been head coach for the school’s boys and girls basketball teams as well as an assistant coach on the Oak Ridge High School football team staff for years.

Spratling and his wife Vanessa are both members of the Celebration Committee for the 65th anniversary of school’s desegregation.

“John’s wonderful leadership has been a key factor in the success of this year’s anniversary celebration of the Tennessee-85 students and in the preservation of the history of their landmark 1955 school desegregation,” anniversary celebration co-Chair Rose Weaver said.

The Tennessee-85 entered all-white classes at the Robertsville Junior High School and Oak Ridge High School breaking through the Jim Crow racial segregation barrier in public education.

“The Tennessee-85 students are an important aspect of American history,” John Spratling said. “By entering those classrooms in a quiet and determined manner, they opened the door for many other schools — the beginning of the end for Jim Crow’s grip on Southern education. Their wonderful courage blazed a trail for the modern civil rights movement in the Southeast — and throughout the nation.”

“I try to help our students appreciate the amazing courage of the 85 students, their parents, and their teachers,” Spratling said. “The Tennessee-85 story is one of the great successes in civil rights. It’s unfortunate that so few have heard about them. They were remarkable American pioneers.”

Spratling has been actively involved in youth programs at the Scarboro Community Center. He has served on the board of directors of the Oak Ridge Boys & Girls Club for over a decade. He has also been active in the Boys to Men program, which reaches out to youth with training and counseling on domestic violence.

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