According to the Birmingham News, the Fort Payne City School District (FPCSD) has reached a settlement in a nearly 50-year-old school desegregation lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The claims against FPCSD were part of a statewide school desegregation lawsuit, Lee vs. Macon County Board of Education, filed in 1963. In March 1967, a federal court had ordered Alabama’s then-state superintendent of education to notify a number of school systems, including FPCSD, that they were required to adopt a desegregation plan for all grades commencing with the 1967 school year.
In 2006, DOJ commenced a five-year review of FPCSD’s compliance with its desegregation obligations. Based on its review, DOJ notified FPCSD that “the Board had satisfied its desegregation obligations in the areas of transportation, extracurricular activities, and facilities, but that the Board has not yet fully satisfied its obligations in the areas of student assignment (including transfers) and faculty and staff.” The parties intend that FPCSD’s compliance with the consent order will “result in the Board fulfilling its obligations in the areas of student assignment and faculty and staff within the next two years.”
According to the proposed consent decree, the parties agree the proposed order represents “a road map to the end of judicial supervision” of the system, and requires that FPCSD be in full compliance no sooner than 45 days after the system submits a July 1, 2014 compliance report to DOJ and to the federal district court who issued the desegregation order. The proposed decree also states, “Continued judicial supervision of this case will be limited to ensuring that the (school) District takes all actions identified in this Consent Order and refrains from taking any actions that reverse its progress in desegregating the school system.”
Commenting on the agreement, Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, said, “We are pleased that the Fort Payne City school district has demonstrated significant progress in complying with its desegregation obligations and a willingness to take additional measures to reach our mutual goal of ensuring equal educational opportunities for all students.”
Source: Birmingham News, 6/26/12, By Kent Faulk
[Editor's Note: The ultimate goal for a school district under a desegregation order is to be declared unitary. In May 2012, Legal Clips summarized a decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (MD, NC, SC, VA, WV) in Everett v. Pitt Cnty. Bd. of Educ., which held that a federal district court erred when, in examining the plaintiffs’ motion for injunctive and other relief for an alleged breach of a settlement agreement and consent order, the court failed to apply, and required a North Carolina school district to rebut, the presumption that any racial disparities in its 2011-2012 assignment plan resulted from the school board’s prior unconstitutional conduct in operating a racially segregated school district. ]