Supreme Court Declines To Review Racial Bias Case

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Washington--The U.S. Supreme Court last week declined to hear the case of a black educator who successfully sued a Tennessee school district in federal court to win a job as a high-school principal, only to lose the post two years later in a dismissal upheld by state courts.

Capping years of acrimonious litigation, the Justices without comment refused to review Cooper v. Williamson County Board of Education (Case No. 90-1291).

In 1984, Freeman M. Cooper won a racial-bias suit in federal district court against the Williamson County schools, located in Franklin, Tenn. As a result, he became principal of nearly all-white Fairview High School.

Shortly afterward, the high school began receiving bomb threats and experiencing student walkouts and other unrest.

Then-Superintendent of Schools Kenneth L. Fleming brought formal complaints against Mr. Cooper before the school board in early 1985, but the board declined to dismiss the principal.

According to court documents, hostility at the high school and between the two men continued, however, and, in February 1986, the school board discharged Mr. Cooper. The principal challenged the dismissal in state court, alleging that the school district had violated his due-process rights.

A chancery court, or lower state court, dismissed Mr. Cooper's claims, but the Tennessee Supreme Court remanded the case for a new trial. In January 1989, the lower court again ruled in the school district's favor. In September 1990, the state supreme court affirmed the lower court's decision.

In his petition for review by the U.S. Supreme Court, Mr. Cooper alleged "abusive treatment" by the school district; suggested that some Fairview High teachers "had been fomenting unrest" at the school; and accused the school board of "unconstitutional acts" and the Tennessee court system of sanctioning such conduct.

The school district's response accused Mr. Cooper of "insubordination, inefficiency, neglect of duty, and incompetency."--lsa

Vol. 10, Issue 35

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