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Norfolk Asks End to School Busing

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The Norfolk, Va., school board has filed two motions in federal district court seeking to dismantle its existing elementary-school-level desegregation plan, which entails widespread busing, and to replace it with a system of neighborhood schools.

According to City Attorney Philip Trapani, the first motion requests that U.S. District Judge John MacKenzie "reopen" the 1956 lawsuit, Beckett v. Norfolk School Board, which was closed in 1975 when the school district was declared "unitary."

About 61 percent of the district's 35,000 students are black, and about 20,000 of its students are bused daily for desegregation purposes.

The second motion, styled as a "class action," asks Judge MacKenzie to declare the school board's pro-posed neighborhood-school plan constitutional.

In early February, the school board, after 16 months of emotional debate, voted to scrap its 13-year-old student-transportation plan. That action, if approved, would make Norfolk the first city in the nation to integrate its schools successfully and then abandon its desegregation plan.

Under the new plan, which was approved by a 5-to-2 vote, 10 of the city's 36 elementary schools would become more than 90-percent black. Six other schools would become more than 70-percent white.

Mr. Trapani said the school board decided to file two motions instead of one "for procedural reasons." He said the board expects that the cases will be consolidated for any hearings or dispositions.--tm

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