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Judge To End Monitoring Of San Diego Desegregation Order

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A California judge has said he will end two decades of state court supervision over desegregation efforts in the San Diego schools.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Arthur W. Jones last month agreed to a request from a local anti-busing group to release the 125,000-student district from the 1977 order. He said the district's integration programs had become so institutionalized that they no longer required court monitoring.

Judge Jones is expected to issue his final order this spring.

San Diego is one of only a handful of California districts still under state court supervision for school desegregation, said Joe Symkowick, the general counsel for the state education department. The state constitution--like the U.S. Constitution--contains an equal-protection clause under which citizens can pursue claims of segregation, he added.

The announcement in San Diego came as the judge rejected a request from another community group to remove 23 racially isolated schools named in the case from the district's authority and place them under state or county control. That group, known as We, the Collective, has long complained about schools where achievement has remained low since the order was issued.

The San Diego order grew out of a lawsuit filed in 1967 that did not go to trial until nine years later. The judge in the case ruled against the district, saying it was not doing enough to integrate its schools.

The decision resulted in a pledge by the district to raise achievement among minority students and to create a voluntary desegregation program.

Not the Time?

Jordan Budd, a lawyer for the San Diego office of the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the plaintiffs, said he "did not believe the time had come for the order to be lifted."

"It's our view they've done too little and it's taken too long," he said of the district. "The court still needs to exert pressure on the district to comply."

But Elmer Enstrom Jr., a lawyer for Groundswell, the anti-busing group, claimed that some of the order's provisions were unconstitutional and led the district "to assign students to classrooms based solely on their race."

Mr. Enstrom had challenged the order several times since parents formed the opposition group about 15 years ago.

Superintendent Bertha Pendleton said the district was "still comfortable with the supervision of the court" but was heartened that the judge had "trust and confidence that we'd continue with our efforts" at educational equality.

About 37,000 students in the district attend magnet schools that were created since the order was issued. Another 10,000 students--mostly African-American or Hispanic--are bused to traditionally white campuses under a voluntary ethnic-enrollment program, Ms. Pendleton said.

The district expects to continue receiving money from the state to pay for such programs, she added, noting the Los Angeles school district was released from its desegregation court order but still receives state funding.

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