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U.S. Sues Texas District Over Hiring Practices

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Washington--The Justice Department has filed a civil suit charging that the largest suburban school district in the Houston area discriminates against blacks in its hiring of teachers, secretaries, and clerks.

The department's papers, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, asked the court to require the 35,000-student district "to adopt a vigorous program to recruit blacks for teaching and clerical positions in numbers reflecting their availability in the Houston area labor market."

It also asked the court to consider ordering the district to rehire, with full back pay, "qualified" black individuals who can demonstrate that they were victims of the district's hiring policies.

The department's position seems likely to provoke a negative reaction from critics of the Administration's civil-rights activities. In general, civil-rights groups such as the Na-tional Association for the Advancement of Colored People support remedies such as affirmative-action hiring plans with strict time frames for compliance in such cases. The Administration, on the other hand, has dismissed plans of that sort as "remedies of overreaction" that "fight discrimination with discrimination." (See Education Week, May 11, 1983.)

William Taylor, a prominent civil-rights lawyer and director of the Center for National Policy Review, said last week that the Administration's position in the case, United States v. Pasadena Independent School District, "is not surprising."

'Meaningful Class Relief'

"It seems to me that if the Administration is filing a lawsuit alleging discrimination against a class of people, it should seek meaningful class relief," Mr. Taylor said. "The Administration's self-imposed restrictions on proven-effective remedies ought to be deplored."

According to the Justice Depart-ment's complaint, during the 1982-83 school year, the Pasadena district employed 1,872 teachers, of whom 32, or 1.7 percent, were black, and 234 clerical workers, of whom one was black.

In contrast, the department said, according to 1980 data, 21.6 percent of all teachers in the entire Houston area are black. Similar data for clerical workers, collected in 1970, indicate that 10.2 percent of those workers in the region are black.

The school district is located in Harris County and includes a part of Houston, the entire city of South Houston, and most of Pasadena. Justice Department officials are also investigating allegations of job discrimination in the Spring Branch Independent School District, another suburban Houston system.

Spokesmen for the Pasadena district--whose residents are recovering from the effects of a severe hurricane that hit the area earlier this month--could not be reached for comment on the allegations raised in the Administration's complaint.

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