Federal Judge Rejects Denver's Request To Drop Busing Order

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A federal judge in Denver has turned down the city school board's third request in as many years to declare the school system fully desegregated and to end mandatory busing for some 11,000 students.

In his June 3 order, U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch rejected arguments in the case offered by the Reagan Administration, which has strenuously opposed the use of busing as a remedy for illegal segregation. The Justice Department filed papers in the lawsuit last July supporting the school board's motion seeking an end to the 26-year-old case, Keyes v. School District No. 1.

Limits on Jurisdiction

In its friend-of-the-court brief in the case, the federal government argued that a court must end its jurisdiction in school-desegregation cases once it has been proven that the defendant school system has "fully and nondiscriminatorily" implemented a court-ordered desegregation plan, even if the plan has not fully achieved its racial-balance goals. (See Education Week, Aug. 22, 1984.)

The department advanced a similar argument in a closely watched school-desegregation case involving the Norfolk, Va., public schools. In that case, which was heard earlier this year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and could be decided at any time, a school system that was declared "unitary," or fully desegregated, in 1975 is seeking an end to its busing program and a return to neighborhood schools. (See Education Week, Jan. 23, 1985.)

Denver Board Rebuffed

In a 50-page opinion, Judge Matsch rejected the Denver board's request that he declare the city's schools integrated after 12 years of court-ordered busing.

According to Gordon Greiner, a lawyer representing the black parents who filed the lawsuit, Judge Matsch's decision rested on findings that district officials had failed to comply fully with provisions in the desegregation plan regarding faculty assignments and student-transfer policies. Mr. Greiner added that the judge "was concerned that there was no program in place to prevent resegregation through benign neglect" in the event that he decided to end his supervision over the district.

Michael Jackson, the lawyer for the Denver board, could not be reached for comment on the decision.

Mr. Greiner said Judge Matsch has scheduled a hearing on June 28 to begin developing an agenda for another round of negotiations between the parties to the lawsuit. An earlier round of talks aimed at ending Judge Matsch's involvement in the school district's affairs broke down last March.

Prince George's County, Md.

In another school-desegregation case, a federal district judge in Baltimore approved a desegregation plan for a suburban Washington school district that will rely exclusively on the establishment of magnet schools to improve racial balance.

However, U.S. District Judge Frank A. Kaufman on June 7 also ordered the development of a busing plan that would go into effect should the magnet-only plan fail to achieve racial-balance goals that he set in a September 1981 order in the lawsuit. Under that order, the Prince George's County, Md., school district must ensure that black students constitute no less than 10 percent and no more than 80 percent of each school's total enrollment.

The plan approved this month by the judge calls for the establishment of 30 magnet schools during the next five years, at an estimated first-year cost of $8.7 million. The plan will be implemented next fall with the opening of 12 such schools: six offering gifted-and-talented programs in schools that are now predominantly black, and six offering extended-day programs in schools that are now predominantly white.

The plan also provides for additional funding for 10 schools that county school officials said they would not be able to bring within Judge Kaufman's racial-balance goals.

Vol. 04, Issue 39

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