Fort Wayne Elementary Schools Are Segregated, Suit Charges

By William Snider — September 17, 1986 2 min read

A group of parents in Fort Wayne, Ind., has charged in a suit in federal district court that the city’s elementary schools have maintained a policy of segregating black and white students.

The suit was filed because district officials did not respond to proposals from the group, Parents for Quality Education with Integration, to desegregate the schools, according to William Taylor, a lawyer for the parents.

The Fort Wayne Community Schools enrolled 32,334 students last year, of whom 75 percent were white, 22 percent black, and 2 per- I cent Hispanic, according to Paul G. Gabriel, a spokesman for the district.

Black students constituted more than 80 percent of the enrollments at 5 of the district’s 36 elementary schools, and less than 10 percent of the enrollments at 17 of them, he said.

As a result of a program developed in the early 1970’s, the district’s secondary schools have black-student enrollments ranging from 10 percent to 40 percent, Mr. Gabriel said.

The plaintiffs would prefer to reach a settlement with the district before the suit, which was filed this month, reaches trial, Mr. Taylor said. He added that they are prepared to seek a ruling that would ensure fairness for both blacks and whites in any busing plan ordered in the case.

Meanwhile, elementary students in Norfolk, Va., began attending neighborhood schools this month after a 15-year period during which many pupils were bused to more distant schools under a court-ordered desegregation plan.

Norfolk Plan Implemented

Ten of the district’s 35 elementary schools have virtually all-black enrollments under the new policy, which has been upheld by federal district and appellate courts.

Students in grades 6 and above are still being bused outside their neighborhoods under a compromise plan supported by some black community leaders.

The neighborhood-schools policy is being challenged in a suit that is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Busing in Yonkers, San Jose

Elsewhere, public schools in Yonkers, N.Y., and San Jose, Calif, began busing students this month under court-ordered desegregation plans.

In Yonkers, a federal district judge earlier this year approved a plan that created 16 magnet programs designed to draw an integrated mix of students to approximately half of the city’s schools.

The U.S. Supreme Court last month denied the city’s request to delay implementation of the plan while the case is being appealed. Arguments on the appeal are scheduled to be heard in January.

In San Jose, about 75 percent of the student enrollment is now attending integrated schools as a result of court-ordered busing of 6,000 of the district’s 30,000 students.

A version of this article appeared in the September 17, 1986 edition of Education Week as Fort Wayne Elementary Schools Are Segregated, Suit Charges