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Missouri Ruled Liable for Desegregation Costs

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A federal district judge in Kansas City, Mo., ruled last week that the State of Missouri and the city school board are liable for student segregation in the 70 percent black, 37,000-student district and ordered them to develop a plan to remedy the situation by Dec. 16.

Lawyers familiar with the situation reported last week that the state plans to ask a federal appeals court to review U.S. District Judge Russell G. Clark's Sept. 17 order, especially his finding that much of the cost for preparing and implementing the plan should be borne by the state.

In addition, lawyers for the black parents who initiated the lawsuit, Jenkins v. Missouri, said they were considering appealing Judge Clark's June 5 order dismissing 11 predominantly white suburban school districts from the case.

Judge Clark devoted much of his 38-page opinion to an analysis of how racially motivated state laws and regulations regarding housing affected the current racial makeup of the city schools.

In the opinion, he faulted the state legislature for failing to use its authority to redraw school-district lines "if such legislation is the only means by which the state can fulfill" its obligation to end student segregation in the city.

"Even if the hands of state administrators ... or other agencies were 'tied' by state statutes, the state as a collective entity cannot defend its failure to affirmatively act to eliminate the structure and effects of its past dual system on the basis of restrictive state law,'' Judge Clark explained.

Although he declined to specify exactly what sort of remedy he would find acceptable, Judge Clark suggested that the city school board and the state focus their attention on devising a plan that concentrates on city schools in which the enrollment is more than 90 percent black. He also suggested that they attempt to ensure that students be allowed to attend schools nearest their homes, "so long as by so doing it does not deter from properly integrating the students" in the district.--tm

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