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Federal Court Requires Buffalo To Lay Off Teachers by Race

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A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court's order requiring the Buffalo school board to lay off teachers on the basis of race, but it added that the board must rehire furloughed teachers on the basis of seniority.

In its decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit parted ways with the rulings of two other federal appeals courts in similar cases, involving teachers in Boston and Kalamazoo, Mich. (See Education Week, May 18, 1983.)

In the Buffalo case, Arthur v. Nyquist, the appeals court held that seniority-based layoffs, as called for under a teachers' contract, "would constitute a serious setback for desegregation of the school system."

But it also held on July 22 that it would be "needlessly harsh" to require tenured white teachers to be rehired on a one-for-one basis with minority teachers, regardless of their seniority.

In the Boston case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in early 1982 upheld U.S. District Judge W. Arthur Garrity's 1981 opinion supporting the Boston School Committee's decision to base teacher layoffs and recalls on race rather than seniority. The American Federation of Teachers unsuccessfully petitioned to have that case, Morgan v. Kerrigan, heard before the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reached a completely different decision in the Kalamazoo case, Oliver v. Kalamazoo Board of Education.

In that case, the appeals court on May 6 overturned U.S. District Judge Noel P. Fox's 1980 order requiring the board to rehire all tenured black teachers who had been laid off the year before. Judge Fox also ordered the board to ensure that at least 20 percent of all subsequently recalled teachers be untenured blacks.

Frank Rapley, Kalamazoo's superintendent of schools, said last week that none of the parties to the case have indicated any plans to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

According to William E. Carey, assistant corporation counsel for the city of Buffalo, the recent litigation stems from the city school board's long-running school-desegregation case.

In 1980, Mr. Carey said, a federal district judge issued an order in the case requiring the school board to hire black and white teachers on a one-for-one basis until the percentage of blacks in the schools' teaching force reached 21 percent--the same percentage of blacks in the community at large. The court also ordered that black and white teachers had to be laid off and rehired in equal percentages, regardless of seniority.

The judge's order was appealed to the Second Circuit Court by the Buffalo Teachers Federation, an affiliate of the National Education Association. According to Mr. Carey, none of the parties to the lawsuit have yet announced whether they plan to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In related developments:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit was scheduled to hear arguments last Friday on mo-tions to stay the full implementation of a landmark voluntary school-desegregation plan for the city of St. Louis and its suburbs.

Kenneth Bronstron, a lawyer for the city school board, said motions seeking to block full implementation of the plan have been filed with the appeals court by the state of Missouri, the St. Louis County government, and a group of black parents from the city.

According to Mr. Bronstron, the state planned to argue that U.S. District Judge William L. Hungate overstepped legal bounds when he ordered it to finance a substantial portion of the plan because it has never been found liable for student segregation in the city or suburbs.

The county government, which is separate from the city government, planned to argue that the plan should not be implemented until the matter of the state's liability and its responsibility to pay for the plan is settled, Mr. Bronstron continued.

The black parents, meanwhile, planned to ask the court to reject the agreement because they say it will result in the exodus of the brightest black students from city to suburban schools.

The city of St. Louis has filed a separate motion in the case, asking the appeals court to overturn a part of the plan that requires it to order a property-tax increase without a vote of its citizens, he added.

A group of white parents in Memphis asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit late last month to nullify a consent decree approved by a federal district judge in April 1982 that expanded student busing in some parts of the city to improve racial balance in the city's schools.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Robert M. McRae Jr. approved revisions to the school district's desegregation plan that had been negotiated by the city school board and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Although the revisions eliminated some busing routes, they called for the first time for the busing of students in a predominantly white area in the northeast section of the district.

Lawyers for the parents argued that the additional busing required by the decree was unnecessary because the district had been desegregated by a court-ordered plan in 1973.

Lawyers for the school board countered that the changes were necessary to compensate for shifts in housing patterns and student enrollment in the ensuing 10 years.

A recent study by an independent committee of citizens and black organizations alleged that despite a national reputation for progressiveness on race issues, the public schools of Montgomery County, Md., have failed to improve the academic performance of minority students.

According to the group's 34-page report, minority students in the district are underrepresented in advanced courses and are suspended at a rate far higher than that for whites. The Citizens Minority Relations Monitoring Committee of Montgomery County called on the school board to examine why the district's 16,000 black and Hispanic students are not doing better in school and to create a task force to correct the imbalance in minority suspensions.

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