Federal Judges Dismiss Desegregation Suits Against Schools in Detroit and Los Angeles

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In separate actions, federal judges have dismissed the Detroit and Los Angeles school districts from longstanding desegregation lawsuits.

In the Detroit case, U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn granted the district's request to dismiss the 18-year-old suit against it, but noted the system was not "problem-free."

"Ordinary political processes should be sufficient to make the Detroit board of education accountable for its actions," he wrote in a five-page opinion.

Judge Cohn had been gradually relinquishing his jurisdiction over various aspects of the school system's operations for the past several years.

Rose Mary Osborne, a member of the Detroit board, said this month's action affected only two areas: student transportation and the student-conduct code.

As a result of the district's transformation to a 90 percent black district, she said, only about 3,000 students are currently being bused for desegregation purposes.

The board has adopted several of Judge Cohn's previous orders as board policy, she said, but members have not indicated whether they will do the same with the busing plan and conduct code.

The Detroit case changed the course of discrimination remedies in the schools when the U.S. Supreme Court refused in 1974 to require nearby suburban districts to participate in a desegration plan.

As a result, the plan ultimately ordered for the district was the first to call for substantial educational enhancements in schools that, for practical reasons, remained predominantly black. Such schools in other districts are frequently called "Milliken schools," after the official name of Detroit's case, Milliken v. Bradley.

"After starting with such a big bang," Ms. Osborne said, the lawsuit "went out with a fizzle."

In Los Angeles, U.S. District Judge A. Wallace Tashima dismissed the8Los Angeles Unified School District from a eight-year-old desegregation suit after negotiations on a proposed settlement broke down.

Los Angeles Case

Judge Tashima said last summer that he would dismiss the district from the case unless the parties reached an agreement by Aug. 25. He granted two extensions before dismissing the district on Jan. 9.

"We are pleased with the result from a legal perspective, but as educators, we are disappointed that an opportunity for a settlement was squandered," Richard Mason, legal adviser to the district, said last week.

Both he and the naacp, which filed the suit, blamed the breakdown in negotiations on the state's unwillingness to fund any proposed remedies. The state is now the sole defendant in the suit, which has not yet gone to trial. A pretrial hearing has been tentatively set for September, Mr. Mason said.--ws

Vol. 08, Issue 18

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