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Judge Eliminates One-Third of Busing in Dallas Desegregation Case

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Dallas--Nearly 4,000 elementary students will attend neighborhood schools when classes resume next August following a federal judge's decision to allow the Dallas Independent School District to reduce by one-third the number of students bused for desegregation purposes.

U.S. District Judge Barefoot Sanders ruled April 30 that 2,300 pupils from nine predominantly black neighborhoods in south Dallas may drop out of the district's busing plan.

Those students, who had been bused to schools across town, will attend three new neighborhood-education centers. The district plans to spend more than $1 million on additional staff members and equipment in an effort to raise the achievement levels of the black youths.

"The current achievement levels for these students are appalling, far below normal for the district," Judge Sanders wrote. "More than four-fifths of these pupils are below the national norm; nearly three-fifths rank in the lowest 30th percentile nationally.

"The district proposes to address this crisis by providing these students instruction more concentrated than is available at the [centers for grades 4 through 6] which they currently attend. Put another way, the district proposed further desegregation for these minority students at the 4-6 level by remedial-education measures rather than by transportation--a creative approach for a heavily minority system like disd, sanctioned by the Supreme Court in Milliken II, and endorsed by black educators.

"The court finds that, taken in the context of other desegregation programs in the district, the south Dallas sectors will not adversely affect desegregation," Judge Sanders ruled.

The judge's order also permits about 1,600 students in northeast and southeast Dallas who were bused to schools in the same section of the city to return to their neighborhood schools in 1984-85.

First Major Changes

These modifications to the district's current desegregation plan are the first major changes made in Dallas's elementary-school busing patterns since they were first ordered by a federal judge in 1976.

Although Judge Sanders' decision did not reduce busing as much as was initially proposed by the Dallas school board, school officials say it should help stabilize many neighborhoods and attract middle-class children to public schools again.

"We sought to relieve busing more than this plan does," Superintendent Linus Wright said, "but we're delighted with the reduction this offers and the opportunity to demonstrate we can improve achievement with the special program we have designed."

Mr. Wright said those reductions in busing should "plant the seeds of stability" in Dallas, which has seen a steady decline in the number of white students enrolled in public schools since the early 1970's.

Judge Sanders' ruling does not af-fect desegregation in the district's middle schools or in grades 4 through 6 in other parts of the city. About 8,000 students will continue to be bused for purposes of desegregation.

Leaders of the Black Coalition to Maximize Education, a group allowed to intervene in the lawsuit three years ago on behalf of black parents opposed to busing, say they will appeal the ruling. They oppose the plan, they say, because it does not guarantee that students' education will be any better in the new neighborhood centers than it is in the schools to which those minority children are now bused.

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