The Associated Press reports…“Officials in Shelby County, Tenn., complain they’ll have to spend millions to satisfy a federal judge’s “arbitrary” desegregation order. It’ll mean busing minority students up to an hour away and replacing hundreds of white teachers with black ones, they say.In Huntsville, Ala., under a similar court order, students can transfer from a school where they’re in the racial majority, but not the other way around.
And in the Tucson, Ariz., Unified School District, students could move from one school to another only if the change improved “the ethnic balance of the receiving school and (did) not further imbalance the ethnic makeup of the home school.”
But wait: Hasn’t the U.S. Supreme Court consistently moved away from using race as a factor in deciding where kids should go to school?
Didn’t the high court recently put an exclamation point on that trend, ruling that two districts’ heavy reliance on race in student assignment policies violated the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection?
Yes, and yes. But there are still hundreds of districts across the country, from the Northeast to the Southwest, that operate under federal court desegregation orders — some more than four decades old.
These districts are in a unique and sharply debated position with respect to the Supreme Court’s rulings. They exist in what critics consider a historical Twilight Zone, where federal judges can make seemingly contradictory decisions.
“So which ruling do I violate?” asks a perplexed Bobby Webb, superintendent of schools in Shelby County, where Memphis is located. “The judge’s ruling now, or the earlier rulings that we can’t discriminate against people on the basis of the color of their skin?”
Front-page court battles over integration are mostly a thing of the past. But according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, there are at least 253 school districts still under federal court supervision in racial inequality cases — and those are just the ones in which Justice intervened.
Many of the more infamous names — Boston, Little Rock, Charlotte, N.C. — are gone from the list, having satisfied judges with their desegregation efforts and being granted what’s called “unitary status.” In the last two years alone, at least 75 districts have won such status.
Of those that remain, most are in the South. Georgia leads with 61, followed by Mississippi with 51, Alabama with 50 and Louisiana with 30. But long-standing cases are still pending in places like Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana and Illinois. Continue reading