WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court Tuesday made it easier for
school districts nationwide to abandon forced busing of students
once racial desegregation has been achieved.
The court's 5-3 decision in a case from Oklahoma City said
federal court supervision over previously segregated public schools
should end if officials complied with court-imposed desegregation
plans and ``the vestiges of past discrimination'' have been
Civil rights lawyers had urged the court to adopt a stricter
standard. They said ending such court supervision would result in a
return to neighborhood schools and racial ``resegregation.''
Invoking the high court's 1954 decision that outlawed racial
segregation in public schools, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist
wrote for the court: ``From the very first, federal supervision of
local school systems was intended as a temporary measure to remedy
He added: ``Dissolving a desegregation decree after the local
authorities have operated in compliance with it for a reasonable
period of time properly recognizes that necessary concern for the
important values of local control of public school systems.''
The high court also instructed the lower courts to decide
whether current racial segregation in Oklahoma City's housing is
``the result of private decision-making and economics, and. . .too
attenuated to be a vestige of former school segregation.''
Justices Byron R. White, Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia and
Anthony M. Kennedy joined Rehnquist.
The court's three most liberal members - Justices Thurgood
Marshall, Harry A. Blackmun and John Paul Stevens - dissented.
Justice David H. Souter, who joined the court after the Oklahoma
City case was argued in October, did not participate.
In writing for the dissenters, Marshall said, ``By focusing
heavily on present and future compliance. . .the majority's standard
ignores how the stigmatic harm identified (in the court's 1954
ruling) can persist even after the state ceases actively to enforce
Marshall is the court's only black member, and was the lead
lawyer for civil rights forces in the landmark 1954 case.
His dissenting opinion Tuesday said past Supreme Court decisions
established ``that the effects of past discrimination remain
chargeable to the school district regardless of its lack of continued
enforcement of segregation, and the remedial decree is required
until those effects have been finally eliminated. …