Denver School Board Votes To Seek Unitary Status

By Mark Walsh — February 05, 1992 2 min read

Denver school officials said they planned to file a motion late last week seeking to end federal court supervision of the district’s 22-year old desegregation effort.

The Denver school board decided last month to seek an end to the long-running desegregation case, Keyes v. School District No. 1.

“We believe we have met the orders of the court,” said Dorothy Gottlieb, the board’s president, last month.

Superintendent Evie Dennis said papers were to be filed in U.S. District Court in Denver last Friday.

However, the board’s decision to seek unitary status comes at a time when Hispanic and black leaders in the city have been negotiating to come to terms on a settlement to the desegregation lawsuit, which was filed in 1969. (See Education Week, Dec. 11, 1991.)

A meeting was scheduled for last Friday that was to include representatives of all parties in the case-blacks, Hispanics, and the school district, said Gordon G. Greiner, the lawyer for the black plaintiffs.

The groups planned to try to agree on what steps would need to be taken in order to settle the suit, he said.

Ken Salazar, the executive director of the state’s natural resources department and a Hispanic leader, said the school board has not “foreclosed the possibility of negotiating at the same time they file this motion. It is still our hope the board will sit down at the table.”

“We think the court is going to need some assurance on what we will do to maintain the same level of integration in Denver,” Mr. Salazar added. “I think we can accept less busing, but we need some kind of plan to keep from resegregating.”

No Immediate End to Busing

Denver officials stressed that being freed from their court order would not result in an immediate end to the busing of students for integration, and they vowed to keep schools from becoming resegregated.

For example, magnet schools would remain an important part of the school system and neighborhood schools would not be allowed to end busing for racial balance without plans to avoid resegregation.

“We are not to going to return to the way we were when we were first sued,” Ms. Dennis said in an interview.

The Denver case was the impetus for a landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld federal court remedies for districts where state law had not historically required school segregation by race. The ruling opened the door to court supervised desegregation in many Northern cities.

The extensive use of cross-city busing in the Denver desegregation plan has been a long-running issue there and is said to have contributed to a loss in the city’s middle-class population over the last 15 years.

Wellington Webb, the city’s first black mayor, was elected last year on a platform that included a call to end court-supervised busing for desegregation.

A version of this article appeared in the February 05, 1992 edition of Education Week as Denver School Board Votes To Seek Unitary Status