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Peoria Desegregation Case Is Settled

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Springfield, Ill--A federal desegregation suit against the Peoria, Ill., school district has been settled, ending a legal battle begun in 1979 by the U.S. Education Department.

However, related litigation undertaken by the Illinois State Board of Education, charging that the district discriminates against minorities in the selection of students for programs for the gifted, will apparently continue in U.S. District Court in Peoria.

Under the terms of the desegregation settlement, Peoria will operate a magnet program for "latchkey" children in one of three elementary schools that the Education Department's office for civil rights charged were segregated as a result of the local school board's action.

The program, scheduled to begin in the fall of 1986, is intended to induce children of working white families to transfer to the school. The school district would provide busing for those who transfer.

The district also agreed to close another of the elementary schools and replace it with a new school3with boundaries drawn to produce better racial balance.

In return, the Education Department said it would drop its threat to cut off federal funds to the district.

The federal lawsuit stemmed from findings that the enrollment of the three elementary schools was more than 80-percent minority, compared with a districtwide minority-student population of 42.8 percent. The Peoria district enrolls 17,000 students.

The district contended that the disproportions resulted from housing patterns beyond the control of the school board.

In March 1984, the district countersued the federal agency, contending that it had no power to force integration of the schools. The Illinois state board was also named in that suit, and last month the state countersued Peoria, alleging that minority students are not fairly represented in programs for the gifted.

The board's lawyer said the settlement of the federal lawsuit would not affect the state's litigation regarding the treatment of minorities in classes for the gifted.

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