(CN) – The 8th Circuit on Thursday upheld a federal judge’s ruling that the Little Rock School District has “substantially complied” with a 1998 desegregation order. The ruling releases the school district from federal supervision, and could lead to the state ending desegregation payments to area school districts.
A group of black parents and student’s had challenged the methods that U.S. District Judge William R. Wilson Jr. used to evaluate the district’s desegregation. Specifically, the plaintiffs argued that Wilson’s ruling deviated from the requirement established in his 2004 order, in which he said the school district’s “program assessment process must be deeply embedded as a permanent part of (its) curriculum and instruction program.” The 8th Circuit reluctantly agreed in 2006.
On remand, Wilson acknowledged that he should have adopted a “good faith” compliance standard instead of the “deeply embedded” standard. He concluded that the district should be granted unitary status.
The plaintiffs say they were never given the chance to contest the “deeply embedded” standard established in Wilson’s 2007 ruling.
A three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit said it was “in complete agreement” with Wilson’s latest assessment and similarly rejected the “deeply embedded” standard.
Judge Wollman noted that the 2006 order was “far from … a ringing endorsement” of the standard, and was “at most a reluctant, tepid, grudging recognition” of Wilson’s need to clarify compliance standards.
But because that standard is “inapplicable in the context of this litigation,” the court ruled, the district has met the requirements of the 1998 desegregation plan.