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Despite Adverse Ruling, Illinois Board Vows To Press for School Integration

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Springfield, Ill--The chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education has issued a stern warning to local school districts that state officials will not tolerate racial segregation of students.

Responding to an Illinois Supreme Court ruling that limits the state board's power to enforce desegregation, Edward Copeland reaffirmed the board's commitment to promoting racial balance in schools and its intent to "vigorously pursue all remedies available under the law" to fight segregation.

Those remedies, insofar as the state board is concerned, were restricted in late October when the Illinois high court ruled that the state lacks the authority to force desegregation policies on local districts.

The board decided it would be futile to appeal the unanimous Supreme Court decision. But Mr. Copeland suggested the board has an obligation under state and federal law "to ensure that the schools in our state are operated free from racial discrimination."

"Fulfilling the board's constitutional responsibilities is particularly important now because the federal government is de-emphasizing its civil-rights enforcement programs and depending more heavily on state enforcement," he said. "Federal courts are increasingly holding states liable for civil-rights violations committed by local school districts."

And the chairman made it clear that the board does not intend to abdicate its efforts to guarantee equal educational opportunity for Illinois schoolchildren.

Noting that the court gave local districts the authority to develop desegregation policies, Mr. Copeland directed the board's staff to formulate "model procedures and guidelines which we may submit to local districts for their consideration for compliance with the Armstrong Act," the desegregation mandate in the state school code.

He also instructed the staff to develop procedures for investigating charges of segregation for possible referral to the state attorney general for prosecution--the only remedy available to the board under the high court's order.

Mr. Copeland further offered the state's support to "those many school districts in the state of Illinois which are sincerely and diligently pursuing desegregation."

But the tone of his statement hardened toward those school districts that might continue to resist integration.

"Let it be clear to all," he stated, "that the state board of education will continue to vigorously pursue all remedies available under the law, including our existing administrative powers as confirmed by the Supreme Court and our power of legislative recommendation, to abolish segregation."

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