Equity & Diversity


February 18, 2004 1 min read
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July 1960—The school districts of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County merge.

January 1965—Ten black families, including lead plaintiffs Vera and Darius Swann, sue the Charlotte-Mecklenburg district to obligate it to desegregate its schools. The case is known as Swann v. Charlotte- Mecklenburg Board of Education.

April 1969—U.S. District Judge James B. McMillan orders the district to draw up a plan for the “effective desegregation” of the pupil population, which could include mandatory busing. The following fall, the district’s efforts to integrate schools by busing children is marked by turmoil and violence.

April 1971—The U.S. Supreme Court upholds Judge McMillan’s decision in the Swann case. The ruling allows school systems nationwide to use mandatory busing and other race-based efforts to desegregate public schools.

October 1984—Campaigning for a second term, President Ronald Reagan says in a speech in Charlotte: "[Busing] takes innocent children out of the neighborhood school and makes them pawns in a social experiment that nobody wants.”

March 1992—The school board approves Superintendent John Murphy’s plan to eliminate portions of the district’s mandatory-busing program and establish magnet schools.

September 1997—White parent William Capacchione sues the district, claiming its race- based admission policy is unconstitutional, after his daughter is denied entry to a magnet school because of her race.

March 1998—U.S. District Judge Robert D. Potter reactivates the Swann case. Later that year, six white parents join the challenge to the student-assignment policies; two black families join the Swann plaintiffs to try to maintain desegregation efforts.

September 1999—Judge Potter declares the system “unitary,” or free of all vestiges of segregation, and orders the district to end its race-based student-assignment plans. “Essentially, [the district] is ‘standing in the schoolhouse door’ and turning students away from its magnet programs based on race,” he writes in the ruling.

September 2001—A full panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, Va., affirms the lower-court ruling that the district has achieved unitary status.

April 2002—The Supreme Court declines without comment to review the case. The district’s race-neutral assignment plan begins when classes start in August.


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