Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Duval School Mix Ruling Upheld Appeals Court Finds No Bias

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Duval School Mix Ruling Upheld Appeals Court Finds No Bias

Article excerpt

Byline: Laura Diamond, Times-Union staff writer

As expected, a federal appeals court yesterday upheld a lower court ruling that the Duval County School Board runs all public schools without any racial discrimination.

The 2-1 decision from a panel of the11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta marked the latest step in the 40-year battle to desegregate the school system.

"It's been a long case and it's been litigated for years, and I hope that we can put the past behind us and move on," School Board Chairwoman Susan Wilkinson said.

The ruling upholds the May 1999 decision by U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges that students in Duval County public schools are being treating equally in all respects regardless of race. The decision lifted the school system from court oversight.

A month later the NAACP appealed that ruling.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People might appeal the most recent ruling. Isaiah Rumlin, president of the organization's local chapter, could not be reached last night to comment on the ruling.

Across the nation, federal judges are lifting school systems from their court orders to desegregate. In the early 1990s, more than 1,000 school systems were under these court orders. Now less than 500 remain under the jurisdiction.

The trend stems from the belief that rather than focusing attention on social engineering classrooms to end racial isolation, schools must work to improve the quality of education offered at all schools.

Wilkinson said the school system is working to address the achievement gap that exists between white and minority students.

Compared with white students, black students in Duval County earn lower grades and test scores. They are less likely to graduate and more likely to drop out.

But some, including the NAACP and School Board member Gwen Gibson, argue that the existence of a gap shows that the school system fails to meet the needs of all students. …

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