JACKSONVILLE, Fla., May 28 (UPI) _ The Jacksonville,
Fla., branch of the NAACP has not decided whether to appeal a federal judge's ruling
that the city's public schools are sufficiently integrated.
U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges'
ruling means the Duval County school district is freed from the federal court oversight
imposed 39 years ago when the NAACP filed suit against the district seeking implementation
of a desegregation policy.
In his decision, Hodges referred to a 1990
agreement signed by the school board and the NAACP that said the board must try to
desegregate to the "maximum extent possible."
The judge wrote that the slow but steady
progress of the district's main desegregation tool _ a magnet school program _ is
an important sign of effort.
He also noted that many of the system's
desegregation plans have been slowed by circumstances beyond its control, such as
racially imbalanced population patterns.
Hodges dismissed a major argument by the
NAACP that instead of building new schools in predominantly white areas, more white
students should have used 3,535 empty seats in schools with largely black enrollments.
A school board consultant had said that
only about a third of those seats were available, a number insufficient to meet growth
needs in white areas.
Hodges wrote, "I credit this testimony
and find that the board's plans and practices in the area of new school construction
are not indicative of bad faith."
NAACP members have been withholding comment
on Hodges' decision other than to express their disappointment.
Former Jacksonville NAACP president Eddie
Mae Steward said, "All over the country, courts are saying schools are unitary
even though they're not."
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