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{Memphis} Schools to appeal deseg order
Memphis Commercial Appeal ^ | 8/3/7 | Lindsay Melvin

Posted on 08/03/2007 7:40:00 AM PDT by SmithL

Shelby County Schools officials announced Thursday they will appeal a federal court ruling denying removal of a long-running desegregation order.

After mulling it over with an attorney for nearly two hours behind closed doors, the school board and Supt. Bobby Webb agreed to appeal.

"The board had to fully understand what the judge had said. Parts of it (her ruling) seem to contradict other parts," said Webb, who wouldn't go into detail.

Attorneys on both sides of the 1963 lawsuit, Robinson v. Shelby County Board of Education, filed a motion in August to dismiss the order, saying the district no longer needed federal court monitoring.

But last week, U.S. Dist. Judge Bernice Donald released a lengthy decision stating Shelby County Schools had not struck a racial balance systemwide.

"It's a very difficult issue," said attorney for the plaintiff Richard Fields, who was seeking counsel with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund when contacted.

This is a major case because the Shelby County desegregation suit is one of the largest still active, he said.

In her ruling, Donald commended the district's advancements in transportation, staff and facilities, but said more needed to be done with extracurricular activities, faculty integration and student assignment.

Handed new, stricter guidelines to integrate schools, Webb and board members have been voicing fears that creating racial balance systemwide could divert limited education dollars to busing students and could break up neighborhood schools.

In particular, Donald cited student distribution numbers from 2004-2005, when nine of 46 county schools were less than 10 percent black, while six were between 56 and 90 percent black.

Donald also mentioned the new Southwind High will be virtually a one-race school when it opens Aug. 13, with 88 percent or more black students. Nevertheless, she subsequently approved the attendance zone for the school Tuesday.

The Southeast Shelby school sits in a majority black area and the school reflects the surrounding community, school officials said.

The district was given until 2012 to achieve full racial integration. A special master will be appointed to see that schools are brought into compliance.

Among other things, under Donald's ruling, the school board must strive for each school to meet the "flexible" goal of reflecting, within 15 percentage points, the district's 58 percent white and 34 percent black student ratio.

The county school attorney is drawing up an appeal to be filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati. Part of that appeal will request all elements of the ruling be put on hold until the plea is heard.

School board member Ernest Chism, who was a principal in the county school system during the start of integration, said complying with the original order "was very expensive and time-consuming."

He doesn't deny the importance of desegregation, but he said it was not easy on the kids who were reassigned and bused to different schools.

"It took a couple of graduating classes until kids felt 'this is our school,' " he said.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Government; US: Tennessee
KEYWORDS: desegregation; memphis

1 posted on 08/03/2007 7:40:03 AM PDT by SmithL
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Donald, Bernice B.
Born 1951 in Desoto County, MS

Federal Judicial Service:
Judge, U. S. District Court, Western District of Tennessee
Nominated by William J. Clinton on December 7, 1995, to a seat vacated by Odell Horton; Confirmed by the Senate on December 22, 1995, and received commission on December 26, 1995.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge, Western District of Tennessee, 1988-1995

Memphis State University, B.A., 1974

Memphis State University School of Law, J.D., 1979

Professional Career:
Private practice, Memphis, Tennessee, 1979-1980
Staff attorney, Employment Law & Economic Development Unit, Memphis Area Legal Services, Tennessee, 1980
Assistant public defender, Shelby County Public Defender's Office, Tennessee, 1980-82
Judge, General Sessions Criminal Court, State of Tennessee, 1982-1988
Adjunct professor, Shelby State Community College, 1984-1989

Race or Ethnicity: African American

Gender: Female

2 posted on 08/03/2007 7:40:28 AM PDT by SmithL (si vis pacem, para bellum)
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