664 F.3d 738 (8th Cir. 2011), 11-2130, Little Rock School Dist. v. State of Arkansas

Docket Nº:11-2130, 11-2304, 11-2305, 11-2336.
Citation:664 F.3d 738
Opinion Judge:GRUENDER, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:LITTLE ROCK SCHOOL DISTRICT, Appellant, v. State of ARKANSAS; Arkansas Department of Education, Appellees. Lorene Joshua; Leslie Joshua; Stacy Joshua; Wayne Joshua, Appellees, v. Pulaski County Special School District, Appellant, Arkansas Department of Education, Appellee. Alexa Armstrong; Karlos Armstrong; Khayyam Davis; Alvin Hudson; Tatia Hudson
Attorney:Christopher Heller, argued and on the brief, Clay Fendley, Jr., on the brief, Little Rock, AR, for appellant Little Rock School District in 11-2130. Stephen W. Jones, argued and on the brief, Debby A. Linton, Mika Shadid Tucker, on the brief, Littlerock, AR, for appellant North Little Rock School...
Judge Panel:Before WOLLMAN, MELLOY, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:December 28, 2011
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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664 F.3d 738 (8th Cir. 2011)

LITTLE ROCK SCHOOL DISTRICT, Appellant,

v.

State of ARKANSAS; Arkansas Department of Education, Appellees.

Lorene Joshua; Leslie Joshua; Stacy Joshua; Wayne Joshua, Appellees,

v.

Pulaski County Special School District, Appellant,

Arkansas Department of Education, Appellee.

Alexa Armstrong; Karlos Armstrong; Khayyam Davis; Alvin Hudson; Tatia Hudson; Lorene Joshua; Leslie Joshua; Stacy Joshua; Wayne Joshua; Sara Matthews; Derrick Miles; Janice Miles; John M. Miles; NAACP; Brian Taylor; Hilton Taylor; Parsha Taylor; Robert Willingham; Donna Stone, as class representative on behalf of minor children, Denise, Dennis and Danielle Stone; Dennis Stone, Appellees,

v.

North Little Rock School District, Appellant,

Arkansas Department of Education, Appellee.

North Little Rock Classroom Teachers Association; Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers; Little Rock Classroom Teachers Association; Pulaski Association of Support Staff; Katherine Knight, Appellants,

v.

State of Arkansas; Arkansas Department of Education, Appellees.

Nos. 11-2130, 11-2304, 11-2305, 11-2336.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.

December 28, 2011

Submitted: Sept. 19, 2011.

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Christopher Heller, argued and on the brief, Clay Fendley, Jr., on the brief, Little Rock, AR, for appellant Little Rock School District in 11-2130.

Stephen W. Jones, argued and on the brief, Debby A. Linton, Mika Shadid Tucker, on the brief, Littlerock, AR, for appellant North Little Rock School District in 11-2305.

M. Samuel Jones, III, argued and on the brief, Little Rock, AR, for appellant Pulaski County Special School District in 11-2304.

Scott Paris Richardson, argued and on the brief, Ali M. Brady, on the brief, Little Rock, AR, for appellees State of Arkansas (11-2130 and 11-2336) and Arkansas Department of Education (11-2130, 11-2304, 11-2305, 11-2336).

Damon T. Hewitt, argued and on the brief, New York, NY, John Payton, Debo P. Adegbile, Elise C. Boddie, Rachel M. Kleinman, New York, NY, John Walker, Austin Porter, Little Rock, AR, Robert Pressman, Lexington, MA, on the brief, for appellees Lesli Joshua, Stacy Joshua, Lorene Joshua and Wayne Joshua (11-2130, 11-2304, 11-2305, 11-2336), Appellees Tatia Hudson, Alvin Hudson, Hilton Taylor, Alexa Armstrong, Sara Matthews, John M. Miles, Janice Miles, Brian Taylor, Derrick Miles, Robert Willingham, Khayyam Davis, NAACP, Parsha Taylor, Karlos Amstrong, Ms. Donna Stone and Dennis Stone (11-2305).

Before WOLLMAN, MELLOY, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.

GRUENDER, Circuit Judge.

In these consolidated appeals regarding continuing school desegregation efforts in the Little Rock, Arkansas metropolitan area, North Little Rock School District (" NLRSD" ) and Pulaski County Special School District (" PCSSD" ) each appeal the district court's denial of their petitions for a declaration of unitary status, opposed by appellee intervenors representing the class of black children harmed by segregation (" Joshua Intervenors" ). In addition, NLRSD and PCSSD join with Little Rock School District (" LRSD" ), several local teachers' unions, and a union member 1 in appealing the district court's decision to terminate certain funding obligations of the State of Arkansas through its Department of Education (collectively, " the State" ) arising from a previous settlement agreement in this case. We reverse the partial denial of NLRSD's petition for unitary status, affirm the partial denial of PCSSD's petition for unitary status, and vacate the portion of the order terminating the State's funding obligations.

I. BACKGROUND

This is another chapter of a case that has been before us repeatedly since 1982,

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when LRSD sued NLRSD, PCSSD, and the State to obtain a remedy for the effects of their segregation practices on LRSD. The Joshua Intervenors soon intervened to protect the interests of local black students. We have held that " the long history of concurrent actions on the part of the state, PCSSD, and NLRSD exerted an unmistakable interdistrict effect on the schools of the [Little Rock] metropolitan area by singling out LRSD as the school district which provided some educational opportunities for black students and by identifying PCSSD and NLRSD as white districts." Little Rock Sch. Dist. v. Pulaski Cnty. Special Sch. Dist. No. 1, 778 F.2d 404, 427 (8th Cir.1985) (en banc). Under a comprehensive series of settlement agreements reached in 1988 and 1989 and adopted as consent decrees, NLRSD and PCSSD each agreed to implement detailed plans to remedy segregation violations within their districts, while the State agreed to provide funding for an interdistrict remedy among the three districts, including the creation of magnet schools and majority-to-minority student transfers. See Little Rock Sch. Dist. v. Pulaski Cnty. Special Sch. Dist. No. 1, 921 F.2d 1371 (8th Cir.1990).2

After some court-approved or stipulated revisions, NLRSD's plan to remedy its intradistrict violations reached its current form in 1992 (" 1992 Plan" ), and PCSSD's plan to remedy its intradistrict violations reached its current form in 2000 (" Plan 2000" ). Over the years, each district has obtained partial release from court supervision in some of the problem areas addressed by their intradistrict plans, and NLRSD and PCSSD filed the instant petitions for unitary status in all remaining areas in 2007. At the time of filing, NLRSD remained non-unitary in a total of nine areas and PCSSD remained non-unitary in a total of twelve areas.

The district court held a combined hearing on both petitions in early 2010 and accepted extensive testimony and evidence. In May 2011, the district court granted the petitions in part but denied unitary status for NLRSD in one area and for PCSSD in nine areas. In addition, the district court sua sponte proclaimed an end to most of the State's funding obligations under the 1989 settlement agreement. This set of appeals followed.

II. DISCUSSION

We review the district court's legal conclusions de novo, its findings of fact for clear error, and its modification of a consent decree for abuse of discretion. Little Rock Sch. Dist. v. North Little Rock Sch. Dist., 451 F.3d 528, 531 (8th Cir.2006). A constitutional violator seeking relief from a desegregation plan adopted as a consent decree must show that it " complied in good faith with the desegregation decree since it was entered" and that " the vestiges of past discrimination ha[ve] been eliminated to the extent practicable." Freeman v. Pitts, 503 U.S. 467, 492, 112 S.Ct. 1430, 118 L.Ed.2d 108 (1992) (quoting Bd. of Educ. of Okla. City Pub. Sch. v. Dowell, 498 U.S. 237, 249-50, 111 S.Ct. 630, 112 L.Ed.2d 715 (1991)). We evaluate the school districts' objective compliance with the terms of their respective plans in the same fashion as we would evaluate compliance with the terms of any contract,

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simply by " applying the terms of [the] contract between the parties to facts that have arisen since its creation." Little Rock Sch. Dist. v. Pulaski Cnty. Special Sch. Dist. No. 1, 83 F.3d 1013, 1017 (8th Cir.1996). The " good faith" aspect of compliance with a desegregation decree, however, is more specific than in contract law, and has been described as

whether the school district has demonstrated, to the public and to the parents and students of the once disfavored race, its good-faith commitment to the whole of the court's decree and to those provisions of the law and the Constitution that were the predicate for judicial intervention in the first instance.

Freeman, 503 U.S. at 491, 112 S.Ct. 1430 (addressing good faith as a factor in considering a declaration of partial unitary status). Finally, we are mindful that " federal supervision of local school systems was intended as a temporary measure to remedy past discrimination." Missouri v. Jenkins, 515 U.S. 70, 88, 115 S.Ct. 2038, 132 L.Ed.2d 63 (1995) (quoting Dowell, 498 U.S. at 247, 111 S.Ct. 630) (emphasis added).

A. NLRSD's Petition for Unitary Status

The sole area in which the district court denied a finding of unitary status to NLRSD is the area of staff recruitment. Section 2 of the 1992 Plan requires NLRSD to take numerous actions intended to increase the number of black teachers, principals, and administrators throughout the district, including conducting surveys within the district to identify black teachers interested in advancement to administrative or principal positions; targeting " regional colleges and universities which have strong teacher education programs with significant black enrollment" with promotional recruiting kits and on-campus recruiting visits; contacting " [b]lack community leaders" and " community organizations" to obtain employment referrals for black teachers and administrators; providing professional associations of teachers and administrators with recruiting materials; producing a ten-minute slide or video presentation for use in recruitment activities; and advertising vacancies in " newspapers and other media in communities that have colleges and universities targeted for recruitment efforts." In addition, section 2A of the 1992 Plan requires NLRSD to employ a labor economist " to conduct an analysis of the pool of qualified applicants in the relevant labor market" for each hiring category (teachers, principals, administrators, and coaches), and then to set numerical hiring goals for blacks in each category and a timetable for reaching those goals.

There appears to be little dispute that NLRSD has satisfied the...

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