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Judge finalizes NLR district’s unitary status

by The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette | May 30, 2012 at 5:30 a.m.
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School districts takeover and desegregation

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— U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr., acting on the directions of a federal appeals court, on Tuesday declared the North Little Rock School District unitary and released from any further supervision of its desegregation efforts by federal officials.

Marshall’s two-paragraph order was a procedural step necessary after a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis on Dec. 28 overturned a portion of a lower court decision and concluded that the 9,000-student North Little Rock district was entitled to release from decades of federal court monitoring of its operations.

The appeals court issued a mandate to Marshall regarding the unitary status first on Feb. 28 and then followed with an amended mandate on April 5.

“The Court congratulates the District on its achievement,” Marshall wrote in the Tuesday order. “This is an important step in the ultimate resolution of this long-running case.”

“The North Little Rock school board can now operate the District as it sees fit — answerable to no one except the District’s students, parent and voters,” Marshall added, echoing what U.S. District Judge Bill Wilson said to the Little Rock School District when he declared that district unitary in 2007 as part of the same long-running lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Brian Miller in May 2011 found that the North Little Rock district met the requirements of its desegregation plan in most areas — including student discipline and achievement — but failed to adequately document its efforts to recruit black teachers. Miller directed that the district do that documentation for two more years.

The appeals court reversed Miller’s ruling on the recruitment issue, saying that the court abused its discretion by imposing new data collection and reporting requirements that were not in the district’s desegregation plan.

Only the Pulaski County Special School District remains under federal court supervision in what is now the almost 30-year-old school desegregation lawsuit.

Arkansas, Pages 10 on 05/30/2012

Print Headline: Judge finalizes NLR district’s unitary status

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