This Day in History — The Supreme Court Orders School Integration

schoolintegration10.jpgOn October 29, 1969, The United States Supreme Court ordered that all school segregation must be done at once, overturning the enforcing doctrine established in 1954 of conducting the order in “all deliberate speed.”

Before this issue came before the court in Alexander vs. Holmes Board County of Education, President Nixon had ordered a delay on lower court orders until each of the 33 districts in question had a plan to implement desegregation. Chief Justice Earl Warren disagreed, declaring that eliminating the obstacles to this delayed principle superseded a deliberative solution.

The issue of federal oversight of school districts continues to be an issue in the United States. In Arkansas Pulaski School District (Ak) is seeking to remove itself from the restriction of court approval in its decision making. Arguing that the district has reached unitary status (full integration), the plaintiffs also want to be free of school desegregation legal bills.

A judge who oversaw the first several years of the case ordered such a merger, but that ruling was overturned by the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals at St. Louis, which said merging the three districts would be too drastic a solution. Instead, boundaries of the Little Rock and Pulaski County districts were adjusted, moving some schools from the Pulaski County district to the Little Rock district, while the court kept oversight of all operations in all three districts that affected integration.

In February, Wilson declared the 26,600-student Little Rock district unitary, freeing the state’s largest school system from court monitoring. But that ruling was appealed by a group of black parents called the Joshua Intervenors who are a party to the suit. Settlement talks between the intervenors and district officials are underway in an effort to get the appeal dropped.

The North Little Rock School District asked the court in September to declare unitary status for the 9,800-student district. That request is pending.

Also controversial to this case is the premise of unitary status. It seems the goal among positivists is to attain a balanced racial composition reflecting the district’s jurisdiction, in June, however, the Robert’s court ruled 5-4, against the constitutionality of reassigning students to achieve this template, affectively declaring that race can’t be used for the goal of campus diversity.


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