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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
DELTA DIVISION

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
     Plaintiff,

vs.

TUNICA COUNTY SCHOOL
DISTRICT, et al.,
     Defendants,

and

THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI; THE
STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, et al.,
     Added Defendants.

__________________________________________

CONSENT ORDER

Plaintiff United States of America ("United States") and Defendants Tunica County School District, et al. ("District"), having engaged in good-faith negotiations, do voluntarily agree to the entry of this Consent Order by the Court, to resolve the District's pending Motion to Modify Desegregation Plan. After reviewing the terms of this Consent Order, the Court concludes that the entry of this Consent Order comports with the objectives of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America and applicable federal law, and, if properly implemented, will further the orderly desegregation of the Tunica County School District.

It is, therefore, ORDERED, ADJUDGED and DECREED as follows:

  1. Background

    On September 16, 1999, the District filed a Motion to Terminate Supervision, or, Alternatively, to Modify Desegregation Plan, in which it sought a declaration of unitary status and termination of federal court supervision, or, in the alternative, approval to build a new elementary school in Robinsonville ("the Robinsonville site") and to modify elementary-school attendance zone lines. The Robinsonville site is situated in Section 24, Township 3 South, Range 11 West, on land purchased by the District for the express purpose of building the school there. The District operates under a desegregation plan that was entered by this Court on January 23, 1970 ("1970 Order"), as modified by consent orders dated May 19, 1977, August 1, 1986, July 12, 1988, August 27, 1998, and November 13, 1998.

    On September 24, 1999, the United States filed a Motion for a Discovery and Negotiations Schedule and a Memorandum responding to the District's Motion, in which the United States argued, among other things, that the District had not met its burden of proving either that it had achieved unitary status or that its proposed new school comports with its affirmative obligations under federal law and the 1970 Order. The United States requested that the Court afford it a period to take discovery on the District's Motion.

    At a hearing on October 5, 1999, the Court declined to consider, until a later date, the District's motion for unitary status. Transcript of Motion Hearing at 6-7 (10/5/99). The Court allowed the United States an expedited period for the taking of discovery and scheduled an evidentiary hearing on the District's Motion to Modify Desegregation Plan for November 29, 1999. Id. at 51-52. While preparing for the evidentiary hearing, the parties engaged in negotiations that resulted in the provisions set forth below.

  2. New Elementary School

    1. This Court's 1970 Order requires that "[a]ll school construction, school consolidation, and site selection (including the location of any temporary classrooms) in the system shall be done in a manner which will prevent the recurrence of the dual school structure once this desegregation plan is implemented." The District agrees that it will not proceed with its plans to build a new school at the Robinsonville site. Consistent with this Court's mandate and to further the process of desegregation, the parties agree that the District shall exercise all good faith efforts to acquire a specific tract of land situated in Section 26, Township 3 South, Range 11 West, referred to as the alternative site in the District's Motion. See Appendix A (Map of Tunica County, showing schools and attendance zone lines). Upon the entry of this Consent Order, the District shall be permitted to acquire this tract and proceed with the construction of a new elementary school on it.(1) This 12.85-acre site is situated at the intersection of Old Highway 61 North and Indian Creek/Hambrick Road; it is west of Old Highway 61 North, north of Indian Creek/Hambrick Road, and south of the intersection of Old Highway 61 North and Bowdre Road. The site is about 1.75 miles south of the Robinsonville site; about 0.75 miles west of the Hambrick subdivision; about 2.5 miles north of the Hollywood subdivision; and about 8.0 miles from Tunica Elementary School. The District shall be responsible for all necessary site preparation work and infrastructure costs (e.g., water, sewerage, electric, gas) to insure that the new elementary school is fully functional and meets applicable federal, state and local standards, regulations and codes.

    2. The school shall be designed and built with a capacity to accommodate 500 students, in pre-kindergarten through the fifth grade. The District projects the initial enrollment at this school to be 200-250 students. The District shall insure that the facilities, curricula, resources and equipment are comparable at all elementary schools.

    3. The District shall insure that the name and any school mascot or colors of the new elementary school are not insensitive or offensive to the African-American community in Tunica County.

  3. Attendance Zone Lines

    The current elementary school attendance zones shall be modified as follows:

    1. For the new elementary school, the attendance zone shall be that part of Tunica County north of a line which shall: begin at the western boundary of Tunica County at Bordeaux Point in Township 4 South, Range 13 West; proceed due east along the southern boundaries of Sections 3, 2, 1, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23, to Good Road; then east and then north on Good Road to Verner Road; then north on Verner Road to Arnold Road; then east on Arnold Road to Woolfolk Road; then east on Woolfolk Road to its junction with Highway 3 North; then due east along the southern boundaries of Sections 10, 11 and 12, to the DeSoto County line. See Appendix A.

    2. The attendance zone for Tunica Elementary School shall be bounded to the north by the attendance zone line described in Paragraph III.A, above, and to the south by an attendance zone line that shall: begin at the intersection of the western boundary of Tunica County with the southern boundary of Section 16, Township 5 South, Range 13 West; proceed north along the western county line to its intersection with the southern boundary of Section 18, Township 5 South, Range 13 West; then east along the southern boundaries of Sections 18, 17, 16, 15 and 14 to Austin Road; then east on Austin Road to New Highway 61; then south on New Highway 61 to its intersection with Bonnie Blue Road; then east on Bonnie Blue Road and then Flint Woods Road to the Tate County line. See Appendix A.

    3. The attendance zone for Dundee Elementary School shall be that part of Tunica County south of the attendance zone line described in Paragraph III.B, above. See Appendix A.

  4. Transportation

    1. The District shall insure that transportation to schools is provided on a non-discriminatory basis, and that transportation burdens are not unreasonable.

    2. The District shall make its best efforts to limit the time of each student's bus transportation to the elementary schools other than Dundee from pick-up to drop-off to 35 minutes or less; and absent extraordinary circumstances, which the District shall promptly explain in writing to the United States and the Court, the scheduled time of any student's bus transportation to the elementary schools other than Dundee shall not exceed 45 minutes.

  5. Future Construction/Attendance Zone Modifications

    1. The District shall insure that any future school construction, school closing, grade re-configuration, and/or attendance zone modifications comport with the District's affirmative obligations to achieve the greatest degree of desegregation practicable while equitably distributing the burdens of desegregation and transportation.

    2. In the event the District determines that a need exists to undertake any of the actions identified in Paragraph V.A, above, it shall, at least ninety (90) days prior to expending any funds, or entering into any binding commitments, or taking any other measure designed to bring about any of the actions identified in Paragraph V.A, above, provide written notice to counsel for the United States, by facsimile and first-class mail to the address below,(2) setting forth (1) the proposed action(s) to be taken, (2) the reason(s) for such action(s); (3) a detailed analysis of the expected impacts on desegregation and transportation; and (4) appropriate supporting data and information to enable the United States to evaluate the District's proposal. The United States shall approve or object to the proposal within ninety (90) days of submission. If there is an objection, or if the United States fails to timely respond to the proposal, the parties shall attempt in good faith to resolve the matter informally. At the end of such negotiations, the parties shall submit a proposed consent order for this Court's review and entry, or request that the Court consider and resolve the disputed matter.

  6. Residential Development

    1. Because of the burgeoning casino industry in northern Tunica County, significant residential development is in its beginning stages in Tunica County. The United States and the District agree that this new development creates a unique opportunity to expand housing opportunities, including affordable housing for low- and moderate-income households. The parties share a mutual interest in bringing about the greatest degree of desegregation practicable, and in establishing and sustaining racially diverse student enrollments, in the Tunica County public schools.

    2. The parties agree that the participation of the Tunica County Board of Supervisors, the Mississippi Home Corporation and the State of Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development in implementing housing initiatives may assist in achieving these important ends. On November 15, 1999, the Tunica County Board of Supervisors adopted a Resolution to implement an affordable housing plan for Tunica County. See Appendix B. Counsel for the Board of Supervisors has provided the parties a letter regarding the Resolution. See Appendix C. The Mississippi Home Corporation and the State of Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development have indicated their intended support for, and participation in, the implementation of this plan. See Appendices D and E.

    3. The District agrees to work with the Tunica County Board of Supervisors to implement the affordable housing plan as follows:

      1. The District shall distribute, to parents of students attending the District's schools, marketing materials and other written information provided to it by the County about the County's housing education and counseling services;

      2. The District shall provide physical space, upon reasonable request by the County, in District school buildings for home-buyer seminars, fair housing workshops and other housing educational and counseling services; and

      3. The District shall develop and implement an ongoing marketing and outreach program, including utilizing materials provided to it by the Mississippi Home Corporation, to inform current and prospective licensed District teachers of the Housing Assistance for Teachers home-ownership program offered by the Mississippi Home Corporation.

  7. Reporting

    Beginning with the 2000-01 school year, the District shall, within thirty (30) days of the beginning of each school year, submit to the United States and the Clerk of the Court a report that includes the following information:

    1. Student enrollment, by race, for each school in the District;

    2. Administrative and certified staff, by position and race, for each school in the District;

    3. A list of all students who are attending schools outside the attendance zones in which they reside (both intra- and inter-district), including, for each student, (1) the race of the student; (2) the sending and receiving schools; and (3) the reason(s) for the transfer;

    4. School bus routes for the elementary schools in the District, indicating the race of each student, the time the student is picked up, the time the student is delivered to school, and the reason(s) why any such time exceeds thirty-five (35) minutes; and

    5. Any new school construction or modification, including the addition of portable classrooms, or any attendance zone line change, under consideration by the District.

  8. Effect of Prior Orders

    The Court retains jurisdiction over this case, and all prior orders not inconsistent with this Consent Order remain in full force and effect.

So ORDERED this _______________ day of November, 1999.

____________________________________________
NEAL B. BIGGERS, JR.
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

For Plaintiff United States of America:

BILL LANN LEE
Acting Assistant Attorney General

MICHAEL S. MAURER
K. HESHIMA WHITE
SUNIL H. MANSUKHANI
Attorneys
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Educational Opportunities Section
P.O. Box 65958
Washington, DC 20035-5958
(202) 514-4092

CALVIN D. BUCHANAN
United States Attorney
911 Jackson Avenue
P.O. Drawer 886
Oxford, MS 38655
(601) 234-3351

For Defendants Tunica County School District, et al.:

REUBEN V. ANDERSON (MSB # 1587)
JOHN P. SNEED (MSB # 7652)
JAMES W. CRAIG (MSB #7798)
J. DOUGLAS MINOR, JR. (MSB #10045)
PHELPS DUNBAR, L.L.P.
200 South Lamar Street, Suite 500
Mtel Centre
P.O. Box 23066
Jackson, MS 39225-3066
(601) 352-2300


1. The District has obtained informal assurances from the owner(s) of this tract that the land is available to the District on acceptable terms. The availability of this land is conditioned on the reversion of "the Robinsonville site" to the related grantors of that tract pursuant to the terms of a Corrected Warranty Deed.

2. The notice shall be sent to: Chief, Educational Opportunities Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, P.O. Box 65958, Washington, DC, 20035-5958, (202) 514-8337 (facsimile number).

General Information Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
 
Leadership
Steven H. Rosenbaum
Chief
Contact
Housing & Civil
Enforcement Section
(202) 514-4713
TTY - 202-305-1882
FAX - (202) 514-1116
To Report an Incident of Housing Discrimination:
1-800-896-7743
Mailing Contact
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section, NWB
Washington, D.C. 20530

Email: fairhousing@usdoj.gov

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