Sumner School advocates: 'Please don't forget about Sumner'

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW)-- From the Little Rock Nine to Ruby Bridges in Louisiana, each is part of the story and history of desegregating our nation’s public schools.

In Topeka, that story involved Sumner Elementary.

"You cannot tell the complete story without talking about Sumner," Ward-Meade NIA president Dawn Downing said.

Sumner was one of Topeka’s all-white schools, and where Oliver Brown tried to enroll his daughter Linda in 1954. But 65 years after the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board decision made it possible - Sumner is fading away.

Once adorned with molded ceilings and pristine hallways, the building is now riddled with broken windows, and holes in walls.

"People go break in, they had to board up the windows several times," Downing said.

The Southside Palace Christian Church based in Los Angeles, California bought Sumner school in 2009. With the purchase, promises were made by the church--promises Councilwoman Karen Hiller says went unfulfilled.

"Things fell apart at that point," she said.

Hiller says the relationship with the church started out positive, then the church stopped answering their calls.

"It was pretty devastating," she said.

The Ward-Meade NIA later sued Southside Christian Palace to have the building declared a nuisance and force the church to take action. But earlier this year, a judge ruled the group did not have standing to file the action, leaving Topeka Sumner advocates at square one.

Hiller says the city of Topeka shouldn't have let Sumner go.

"The way the city auctioned it off, how they did it, was a mistake," she said.

NIA president Dawn Downing says they don’t want to push the church away.

"We just want it to live," she said.

But it is also up to the community must fight for Sumner's future....

"To have Sumner sitting there in simple terms...rotting is just a shame and should be unnecessary," Hiller said.

And Downing wants the legacy to continue to impact the community. "The plaintiffs who were courageous and unafraid to go out and demand change, we don't want that to get quiet," she said. "Please, don't forget about Sumner."