705 F.2d 265 (8th Cir. 1983), 82-1834, Clark v. Board of Educ. of Little Rock School Dist.

Docket Nº:82-1834.
Citation:705 F.2d 265
Party Name:Delores CLARK, Roosevelt Clark, June Clark, Sharon Clark, infants, by their father and next friend, Roosevelt Clark and Ethel Lamar Moore, an infant, by her mother and next friend, Mrs. Dazzle Mott Moore, Appellants, v. The BOARD OF EDUCATION OF the LITTLE ROCK SCHOOL DISTRICT, Russell Matson, Jr., President; Everett Tucker, Jr., W.T. McDonald, Joh
Case Date:March 31, 1983
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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705 F.2d 265 (8th Cir. 1983)

Delores CLARK, Roosevelt Clark, June Clark, Sharon Clark,

infants, by their father and next friend, Roosevelt Clark

and Ethel Lamar Moore, an infant, by her mother and next

friend, Mrs. Dazzle Mott Moore, Appellants,

v.

The BOARD OF EDUCATION OF the LITTLE ROCK SCHOOL DISTRICT,

Russell Matson, Jr., President; Everett Tucker, Jr., W.T.

McDonald, John Harrell, Warren K. Bass and James Coates,

Directors of the Little Rock School District, Appellees.

No. 82-1834.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

March 31, 1983

Submitted Jan. 11, 1983.

Friday, Eldredge & Clark by Christopher Heller, Little Rock, Ark., for appellee Bd. of Educ. of Little Rock School Dist.

John W. Walker, Ralph Washington, Little Rock, Ark., Jack Greenberg, James M. Nabrit, III, Bill Lann Lee, Theodore M. Shaw, New York City, W.A. Branton, Jr., Washington, D.C., for appellants.

Before HEANEY, BRIGHT and ARNOLD, Circuit Judges.

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HEANEY, Circuit Judge.

The process of desegregation in the Little Rock, Arkansas, school district has been a long and difficult one. 1 We are presently concerned with the constitutionality of a plan adopted by the School Board for the elementary grades, the "Partial K-6 Plan." The district court, 2 determined that the changes proposed by the School Board in the Partial K-6 Plan were constitutional. We cannot say that the district court clearly erred in this holding and, accordingly, we affirm.

This lawsuit was originally commenced by plaintiffs to dismantle the dual system of public education that existed in the public schools of Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1971, this Court approved a plan for the desegregation of grades 6 through 12 and directed the School Board to implement a plan to integrate the elementary grades. Clark v. Board of Education of the Little Rock School District, 449 F.2d 493, 495, 498-499 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 405 U.S. 936, 92 S.Ct. 954, 30 L.Ed.2d 812 (1971). In 1972, we approved the plan that was developed for grades 4 and 5, but rejected one devised for grades 1 through 3. Clark v. Board of Education of the Little Rock School District, 465 F.2d 1044, 1046 (8th Cir.1972), cert. denied, 413 U.S. 923, 93 S.Ct. 3054, 37 L.Ed.2d 1044 (1973). We did so because we believed that the plan for grades 1 through 3 was "a last ditch effort to retain a segregated school system in the primary grades contrary to the Supreme Court's mandate that segregation be eliminated 'root and branch.' " Id. at 1047 (citing Green v. County School Board of New Kent County, 391 U.S. 430, 437-438, 88 S.Ct. 1689, 1693-94, 20 L.Ed.2d 716 (1968)). We ordered that the School Board develop a plan for grades 1 through 3 in eastern Little Rock for the 1973-1974 school year similar to that adopted for grades 4 and 5.

In June, 1973, the parties executed a "moratorium agreement" concerning student assignments in the primary grades, which was approved by the district court and implemented during the 1973-1974 school year. In addition to pupil assignments, the agreement established a goal of one-third black/two-thirds white personnel in administrative and teaching positions, prohibited "tracking" while allowing the use of "achievement grouping" within the framework of "presently heterogeneous student groupings," and established a Biracial Committee, composed of an equal number of black and white persons, to aid in the resolution of any problems that might occur. The agreement also provided that the plaintiffs would refrain from instituting further legal proceedings for at least two years in order to allow the School Board time to implement desegregation in an atmosphere free from litigation.

When the agreement was implemented in the fall of 1973, the Little Rock public schools served a total of 21,095 students, 48% of whom were black. Black students accounted for from 41% to 77% of the students in the elementary grades, 3 from 44% to 58% in the middle schools, grades 6 and 7, and from 39% to 56% of the students in the junior and senior high schools. By the fall of 1976, black enrollment in the public schools had increased to 54%. Percentages of black students in the junior and senior high schools ranged from 39% to 56%; in the middle schools, from 44% to 60%; and in the elementary schools, from 31% to 90%.

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The number of classes at the elementary level that had racial compositions which varied more than 10% from the racial composition of those grades district-wide had increased from previous years, and increased again in 1977.

The school district implemented a reorganization plan in the fall of 1978 to correct some of the imbalances that existed, particularly in the elementary grades. Under this plan, the 3-2-2-2-3 grouping of grades was changed to a 3-3-3-3 grouping. Thus, commencing with the 1978-1979 school year, the district had primary (grades 1-3), intermediate (grades 4-6), junior high (grades 7-9), and senior high (grades 10-12) schools. As a result of the reorganization, the racial composition of all of these grades remained approximately within 10% of the district-wide racial composition from 1979 through 1981.

By the fall of 1981, there were only 18,104 students in the Little Rock school system, and the percentage of black students had increased to 65%. The 1981-1982 racial composition at each of the schools once again varied from the district-wide percentages. Seventy-six percent of the students in the elementary grades were black and the percentage of black students ranged from 65% at Terry to 86% at Williams. At four elementary schools, the percentage of nonwhite students was 80% or greater. In the intermediate grades, black children accounted for an average of 69% of the students, and individual schools ranged from 59% to 81% black. Two intermediate schools were 80% black or greater. At the junior high level, 62% of the children were black, and individual schools ranged from 49% to 69% black. Finally, the high schools ranged 51% to 57% black, when the percentage of black students at the high school level in the district was 55%.

The district court found that the decline in the percentage of white students enrolled in the Little Rock public schools could generally be explained by the movement of white families from the district to the suburbs, some of them to avoid sending their children to integrated schools, and by an increase in the black population in the school district, caused in part by a higher birth rate in the black population.

Until 1961, the boundaries of the Little Rock school district extended beyond the boundaries of the city of Little Rock. Since that date, the city has annexed additional land and has expanded to nearly eighty-two square miles. Meanwhile, the school district's boundaries have not been broadened, in part because annexation and consolidation require the joint agreement of the districts involved, and the Pulaski County Special School District has refused to cooperate in any efforts to merge or consolidate. Forty percent of the city is now outside the boundaries of the school district.

The school district was aware of the trends in enrollment described above for some time. In a 1980 report entitled " 'White Flight'--A Planned Response," Superintendent Paul Masem reviewed the attendance statistics and concluded that "Little Rock is fast developing into a black school district." Masem's report continued:

As resegregation has become more evident, it has been accompanied by a shrinkage in the belief in the capacity of the Little Rock School District to provide equal educational opportunities to all students. Realities which support this assessment are as follows:

(1) the patterns of pupil assignment to academic offerings; (2) the disparity in performance between black and white students; (3) the racial composition of students who participate in co-curricular activities; (4) the visibility and recognition of all students in athletics; (5) the patterns of social interaction among students; (6) the patterns of social/professional interactions among staff; and (7) the persistent rate of "white flight" from the Little Rock School District and the central city. [Emphasis in original.]

The school district has attempted to keep as many white students in the public schools as possible through the implementation of several policy and program initiatives in addition to a variety of outreach and community relations programs. Faced

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with a continuing trend toward an all-black school district despite these efforts, Superintendent Masem recommended in December, 1980, that the School Board study alternative concepts for the reorganization of the school district. The School Board created a Patrons Reorganization Committee 4 to review the concepts proposed by the administration. The Biracial Committee was also involved in the study of various alternatives and the school district administration created a task force to aid in the effort.

Although no consensus had emerged on the appropriate steps...

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