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Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
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Florida School District Declared Desegregated

The Jefferson County School District in Florida has been declared desegregated, 44 years after the federal government took legal action against it.

(CN) - Forty-four years after being sued by the federal government, the Jefferson County School District in Florida has met its obligation to desegregate its public schools, a federal judge ruled.

The government sued the district, which is located in northern Florida, at the top of the bend in the state's panhandle, on July 9, 1970. At the time the government said the district hadn't done enough to balance the racial population of the district or to eliminate perceived bias in the hiring of faculty and staff, transportation and extracurricular activities.

In August 1970 the federal court in Tallahassee, Fla., enjoined the district from operating racially segregated schools, and in August 1976, it approved a desegregation plan hashed out by the district and federal regulators. The court then placed the case on its inactive docket, pending further developments.

On January 5, 2012, the government moved to have the case returned to the active docket as it planned to investigate whether the district had achieved the goals outlined nearly four decades earlier.

The government was pleased by what it found. For instance, on the classroom level, federal investigators found no evidence that classroom assignment decisions improperly considered race; rather they said, the "[d]district assigns students to different classes based on ability."

In regard to staffing, the government said it found no case were the racial composition of staff indicated that a school in the district was intended for black or white students.

The government also concluded that facilities and extracurricular activities were available equally to all students in the district.

And while the majority of students bussed in the district were black and that some all-black schools remained in Jefferson County, the investigators concluded this was caused by shifting housing patterns and changes in enrollment rather than intentional segregation.

"Based on the foregoing analysis, the Court finds that the school district has fully and satisfactorily (1) complied with the court's desegregation orders for a reasonable period of time, (2) eliminated the vestiges of past de jure discrimination to the extent practicable, and (3) demonstrated a good faith commitment to the while the Court's desegregation order," Senior U.S. District Judge Maurice Paul wrote.

As a result, "[t]he Jefferson County School District is declared unitary, all prior injunctions in this case are dissolved, jurisdiction is terminated, and this case is dismissed with prejudice," Judge Paul said.

The case, however, remains in place for two other north Florida entities: the Gadsden County School District and the Jackson County School District.

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