U.S. Department Of Justice Civil Rights DivisionEducational Opportunities Section

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Case Summaries

Case summaries of some selected cases are provided below. Beneath the title of each case are links to the topic areas and the protected classes that are relevant to each case. These links connect to lists of other cases involving those same topic areas and protected classes. Within each case summary, there are also links to important documents in the case such as complaints, briefs, settlement agreements, consent decrees, orders, and press releases.

A.B. v. Rhinebeck Central School District & Thomas Mawhinney

Title IX    Sex    Harassment

On March 18, 2004, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Section moved to intervene in A.B. v. Rhinebeck Central School District and Thomas Mawhinney, a sexual harassment case brought against the Rhinebeck Central School District and the former high school principal Thomas Mawhinney. The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on May 9, 2003, by four current and former high school students and a school employee. The plaintiffs alleged that the school district and Mawhinney violated state and federal laws, including Title IX. The United States filed an intervention brief and complaint-in-intervention alleging that Mawhinney sexually harassed the four plaintiff students as well as other female high school students during his ten-year tenure as principal and that the school district violated Title IX by acting with deliberate indifference to known sexual harassment of these students. The district opposed the United States’ intervention, and the United States filed a reply. On August 25, 2004, the court granted the United States’ intervention motion.

On March 22, 2006, the court approved a consent decree that requires the district to develop and implement a comprehensive plan that will ensure a discrimination-free educational environment for all students. The district must retain an expert regarding sexual harassment training and prevention to assist in developing the comprehensive plan, to evaluate the district’s sexual harassment policies, to conduct a school climate assessment, and to develop a mandatory training program. The consent decree also requires the district to educate school board members and employees regarding how to respond to sexual harassment complaints. Lastly, the district must pay $152,500 to compensate the student victims and to pay their attorney’s fees.

Ayers and United States v. Fordice Higher EducationRace

On January 28, 1975, Mississippi was sued for maintaining an unconstitutional dual system of higher education. Plaintiffs argued that Mississippi denied equal opportunities to black students and faculty members by favoring the State's historically white colleges and universities at the expense of its historically black colleges and universities, and by failing to remove the vestiges of racial segregation in the former de jure dual system. On April 21, 1975, the Section intervened and joined the plaintiffs in seeking injunctive relief that would bring Mississippi's higher education system into conformity with constitutional and statutory provisions.

After a trial, the district court and appellate court found for the defendants, but, in 1992, the Supreme Court overturned the lower courts' decisions and remanded the case to the district court to determine if Mississippi had taken the necessary steps to ensure that a student's choice of college was indeed free and unconstrained by Mississippi's former discriminatory policies. The case marked the first time that the Supreme Court defined the applicable legal standards for higher education desegregation.

On February 15, 2002, the court entered a final judgment approving a $503 million settlement. Endorsed by the Mississippi legislature, the settlement will fund a comprehensive plan over a seventeen-year period aimed at improving academic programs, making capital improvements, and expanding summer programs at the State's historically black colleges and universities. The State also will recognize the historically black Jackson State University as a comprehensive university. The district court dismissed the case, but has retained jurisdiction to enforce the settlement agreement.

Bound Brook Board of Education English Language LearnersNational Origin

In this matter involving the Bound Brook, New Jersey school district, the Section reviewed whether the district was providing appropriate instruction and services to English Language Learners (ELLs), as required by the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (EEOA). Based on its review of the district, the Section raised concerns about, among other things: the school district's procedures for screening new students to determine whether they are ELLs; ELLs' access to basic skills instruction, special education services, and academic enrichment programs; the opportunities that ELLs have to integrate with native speakers of English in a school setting; and monitoring of students currently enrolled in the ELL program and those students who have exited from the program. The school district and the Section engaged in good-faith negotiations about these and other issues, and on October 16, 2003, entered into a settlement agreement outlining the measures that the school district will take to ensure that it complies with the EEOA. The agreement requires the district to provide, among other things: timely assessment of all students with non-English speaking backgrounds; quality curricula and instruction for ELLs; adequate teacher training; and careful monitoring and reporting on the academic progress of ELLs who are currently enrolled in the program and those who have exited from the program.

Campbell v. St. Tammany Parish School Board Elementary and Secondary EducationReligion

In this religious discrimination case, the plaintiffs alleged that their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments were violated when the school board excluded them from using school facilities for a "prayer meeting" at which civic and social issues would be discussed. The school board permits community groups and non-students to use school facilities for a wide variety of civic and recreational purposes, such as luncheons, homeowner association meetings, seminars, and athletic activities. The policy permits groups to use school facilities to engage in discussions having a "religious viewpoint," but not to engage in "religious services or instruction." Relying on this distinction, the board denied facility access to the plaintiffs on the grounds that the proposed prayer meeting was a religious service rather than a meeting presented from a religious viewpoint. On April 25, 2003, the Section filed an amicus brief in support of plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, arguing that (1) plaintiffs' proposed meeting fits well within the forum created under the school board's facility use policy, and (2) there is no legal or practical distinction between religious viewpoints on a topic and "religious services or instruction." On June 3, 2003, the Section filed an amicus brief in opposition to defendants' motion for summary judgment.

On July 10, 2003, the court held a hearing on the parties' motions in which the Section participated. On July 29, 2003, the court issued an order granting summary judgment for plaintiffs. The court concluded that although the plaintiffs' proposed meeting was primarily a religious service, it also included a discussion of family and political issues from a legally protected religious viewpoint. Thus, the court held that the proposed meeting was not "mere religious worship," but included speech that the school district permitted through its facility use policy. The school district therefore improperly denied the plaintiffs access to school facilities for their evening meeting. On February 19, 2004, the case was dismissed.

Child Evangelism Fellowship v. Lenz Elementary and Secondary EducationReligion

On July 9, 2004, Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), an organization that sponsors after-school Good News Bible Clubs, filed a complaint and a motion for preliminary injunction, alleging that officials of the Upland Unified School District (California) discriminated against CEF by allowing non-profit organizations such as the Boy Scouts free use of school facilities while at the same time charging religious organizations such as CEF rent equal to “direct costs.”

The United States filed a motion to participate as amicus curiae in this matter, as the United States is charged with enforcement of Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which authorizes the Attorney General to seek relief if a school deprives students of the equal protections of the laws. The Court granted the United States’ motion.

The United States filed a brief in support of plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction. The United States argued that the district’s practice of charging religious groups a fee to use school facilities for activities serving local youth when the district does not charge secular groups a fee to use facilities serving local youth violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments because the fee discriminated against CEF’s religious viewpoint.

On November 15, 2004, the Court granted the plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction thereby enjoining the district from requiring CEF to pay any rental fees or other fees that are not required of other non-profit community organizations for use of the district’s facilities.

Then, on February 4, 2005, the Court entered a Stipulated Dismissal without prejudice with an attached Settlement Agreement stating that the district agreed, among other terms, to permit CEF equal access to school facilities on the same terms and conditions as other similar non-profit groups.

Communities for Equity v. Michigan
High School Athletic Association
Title IXSex

In this sex discrimination case, high school girls in Michigan filed a complaint alleging that the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) violated Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. They contended that MHSAA refused to sanction additional sports for high school girls, provided inferior practice and playing facilities for post-season tournaments held in certain girls' sports, and required girls to play certain sports in disadvantageous seasons, which reduced participation opportunities for high school girls by shortening playing seasons, thereby making it impossible to participate in club competitions and all-star competitions involving players from other states, and negatively affecting their chances of being recruited for collegiate-level sports programs. On September 7, 1999, the Section was granted leave to participate as litigating amicus curiae and filed an amicus brief at the summary judgment stage, arguing that the case should go forward under Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause. On January 21, 2002, the court ruled in plaintiffs' favor, allowing the case to proceed to trial.

In the summer of 2001, the parties participated in mediation, which resulted in a settlement of all claims except for the issue of playing seasons. The court conducted a two-week bench trial in September 2001 and received evidence concerning the following questions: (1) whether MHSAA, by assuming controlling authority over interscholastic athletics from member schools that receive federal funds, is subject to Title IX; (2) whether MHSAA is a state actor for purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and (3) whether MHSAA's scheduling of only girls' sports in disadvantageous seasons violated Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause. On December 17, 2001, the court issued its ruling finding in favor of the plaintiffs and the Section on all three issues. See Communities for Equity v. Michigan High Sch. Athletic Ass'n, 178 F. Supp.2d 805 (W.D. Mich. 2001). The court held that MHSAA is subject to Title IX and is a state actor for purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In so holding, the court further concluded that MHSAA's scheduling practices violated Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause. Lastly, the court ordered MHSAA to submit a compliance plan to remedy the discriminatory scheduling of girls' sports.

The Section filed an opposition to the compliance plan in June 2002. After reviewing briefing on the issue of the remedial plan and conducting a hearing on the matter, the Court issued a ruling requiring MHSAA to switch girls' basketball and volleyball to their traditional, advantageous seasons of the winter and fall respectively. The Court ultimately approved the rest of MHSAA's remedial plan, finding that the switching of the remaining sports at issue (soccer, golf, tennis, swimming, and diving) balanced the inequity of nontraditional playing seasons amongst high school boys and girls in Michigan.

MHSAA appealed the district court's rulings on liability and the remedial plan to the U.S. Court of Appeals to the Sixth Circuit. The Division filed an amicus brief in August 2003. In July 2004, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling that MHSAA's scheduling of sports violates the Equal Protection Clause. MHSAA then appealed to the Supreme Court, which instructed the Sixth Circuit to reconsider the case. On August 16, 2006, the Sixth Circuit issued an opinion that again affirmed the district court's ruling that the sports schedule discriminates against female athletes on the basis of sex. The private plaintiffs are seeking en banc review.

Congress of Hispanic Educators and
United States v. School District No. 1. (Denver)
English Language LearnersNational Origin

In 1999, the Section intervened in this lawsuit alleging that the Denver Public Schools violated Title VI and the EEOA by failing to take appropriate actions to overcome language barriers of its English Language Learner (ELL) students.

In June 1999, the district court approved a new English Language Acquisition Plan for the Denver Public Schools. The Plan provided a range of English and native language services for Denver's approximately 14,000 ELL students. The Plan also provided for teacher training in English language acquisition methods, updated screening and assessment tools to identify and serve children with limited English proficiency properly, and guaranteed comparable curricula and materials between the district's mainstream and ELL classes. The court appointed a monitor, jointly recommended by the parties, to oversee the district's implementation of the Plan. Coppedge and United States v. Franklin County Board of Education Elementary and Secondary EducationRace
In-School Segregation

In this long-standing desegregation case involving the Franklin County Board of Education (North Carolina), the Section currently is monitoring the school district's compliance with consent orders that the district court approved on June 17, 2003 and May 5, 2005. On April 13, 2000, the school district moved to dismiss the case on the grounds that it had attained unitary status. On November 22, 2000, the Section filed a memorandum opposing, in part, the school district's motion. In an order dated June 24, 2002, the district court granted in part and denied in part the school district's motion. The court held that the school district had attained unitary status in all areas except for student assignment, staff desegregation, and quality of education.

At the district court's direction, the parties began negotiations to determine if they could develop a proposed consent order that would address the vestiges of segregation in student assignment, staff desegregation, and quality of education. The parties presented the court with a proposed consent order, which the court approved on June 17, 2003. The consent order requires the school district to, among other things: hire a consultant to analyze what practicable steps can be taken to further desegregation in how students are assigned to schools throughout the district and draft a new student assignment plan; implement measures to ensure that no school has a staff that reinforces the perception of a school as a "white school" or "black school"; and implement procedures to eliminate vestiges of segregation in areas such as advanced courses of instruction, discipline, gifted and talented programs, and special education.

On May 5, 2005, the district court approved a proposed consent order, which required the district to implement a new plan, based on the input of the consultant and the parties, that would eliminate the vestiges of discrimination to the extent practicable in student assignment. In addition, the court permitted rising seniors, juniors, eighth graders, and fifth graders who were affected under the plan to be “grandfathered” under the prior student assignment plan.

County of Henrico School Board v. R.T. Elementary and Secondary EducationSpecial Education
Disability

This case was brought by the Henrico County School Board (board) to appeal a Virginia hearing officer’s decision in favor of R.T.’s parents’ private school placement. R.T. is an autistic child entitled to a free and appropriate education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The hearing officer agreed with R.T.’s parents that the board failed to provide R.T. with a FAPE and that the private school placement was a FAPE. One issue before the federal district court was which party should pay for the private school placement pending the board’s appeal of the state hearing officer’s decision. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s regulation, 34 C.F.R. §300.514(c), which implements the IDEA’s stay put provision, 20 U.S.C. §1415(j), the board should fund the placement while litigation is pending. The board challenged the validity of the statutory and regulatory stay put provisions, and the Section filed an amicus brief on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education to defend both provisions. The Section argued that the regulation was consistent with the plain meaning of the statutory provision and that the statutory provision was a valid exercise of the Spending Clause power. On June 22, 2006, the court issued an opinion rejecting the board’s Spending Clause challenge and agreeing with the United States that the board must pay for R.T.’s private pendent placement.

Curry v. Saginaw School District Elementary and Secondary EducationReligion

On June 16, 2004, the parents of a 5th-grade student at the Hadley School Program for the Creative and Academically Talented sued the school district of the City of Saginaw, Michigan for allegedly discriminating against the student’s religious beliefs. Specifically, the complaint alleged that the district prohibited him from “selling” candy cane ornaments with an attached card explaining the religious origin of the candy cane as part of “Classroom City”–a multi-disciplinary marketplace town simulation that was part of the school’s social studies curriculum. The district conceded that the student had properly followed the assignment’s directions and received a grade of A for the simulation. Both the plaintiffs and the district filed cross motions for summary judgment.

The United States filed a motion to participate as amicus curiae in this matter, as the United States is charged with enforcement of Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which authorizes the Attorney General to seek relief if a school deprives students of the equal protections of the laws. The Court granted the United States’ motion.

The United States filed an amicus brief in support of plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment. The United States argued that the district’s censorship of student religious speech that otherwise fulfills the assignment criteria violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments proscribing government regulation of speech that discriminates against a particular point of view–here a religious viewpoint. On September 18, 2006, the Court issued an opinion finding that the district had abridged the plaintiff student’s First Amendment free speech rights, but granted the district’s motion for summary judgment on other grounds.

Davis and United States v. East Baton Rouge Parish School Board Elementary and Secondary EducationRace

In 1996, the parties to this school desegregation case negotiated a consent decree under which the school system agreed to implement magnet programs and provide additional resources to historically neglected black schools. Under the consent decree, the parties could jointly petition the Court to terminate the case at the conclusion of the 2001-02 school year; otherwise, the school district was permitted to unilaterally move to terminate the case at the end of the 2004-05 school year. Notwithstanding this requirement and the fact that several obligations under the decree remained outstanding, in February 2002, the school district moved for unitary status. The Section filed a motion and a reply brief to enforce the consent decree requirement, arguing that the time provision is legally valid and enforceable. On June 17, 2002, the Court issued an order granting the Section's motion, holding that the time requirement was binding as part of the deal struck by the parties in agreeing to the consent decree. Additionally, the Court found that a showing of unitary status at this time was unlikely given the school district's repeated failures to comply in good faith with prior desegregation orders. The Court further ordered the parties into mediation in an attempt to resolve the various disputes under the decree.

On June 18, 2003, the parties reached a settlement agreement to resolve the remaining issues in the case. Under the agreement, which will remain in effect until 2007, the school district will revamp its magnet programs to create additional dedicated magnet schools, continue to provide enhanced resources that are currently provided to inner city schools with predominantly black student enrollments, increase the number of majority-to-minority transfers, increase enrollments in desegregated schools, and ensure that racial barriers to participation in extracurricular activities are minimized. On August 14, 2003, pursuant to the agreement, the court held a fairness hearing and approved the agreement. As a result, the court dismissed the desegregation case, but retained authority to enforce the agreement's terms and conditions should the district fail to abide by them.

Geier and United States v. Sundquist Higher EducationRace

On May 21, 1968, this case was filed by private plaintiffs to enjoin the proposed construction of the University of Tennessee-Nashville Center (UT-N). The original plaintiffs argued that construction of the predominantly white UT-N would perpetuate the racial identifiability of Tennessee State University (TSU), also located in Nashville, as a segregated black institution, thereby maintaining Tennessee's long-established dual system of public higher education. On July 22, 1968, the Section intervened in the case. A new UT-N campus was ultimately constructed in downtown Nashville; however, on February 28, 1977, the district court ordered the merger of TSU and UT-N. The court subsequently entered a Stipulation of Settlement between the State, the original plaintiffs, and the private plaintiff-intervenors on September 25, 1984.

On January 4, 2001, the court approved a five-year consent decree negotiated by the parties to eliminate further the vestiges of segregation in the Tennessee system of public higher education. Under this consent decree, the State committed to creating new high-demand programs at TSU, particularly at the downtown campus (the former UT-N site), to appeal in particular to non-traditional students. Other efforts included revitalization of the downtown TSU campus, an increase in system-wide efforts to recruit black undergraduate students, and the creation and funding of a TSU endowment for educational excellence. In an order dated September 21, 2006, the court recognized the parties’ efforts and achievements in the case in establishing a unitary system of public higher education in Tennessee, and approved the parties' joint motion for a final order of dismissal and terminated this longstanding litigation.

Hearn and United States v. Muskogee Public School District Elementary and Secondary EducationReligion

A sixth-grade student who practiced Islam wore her hijab, a religious head covering, for several weeks at the beginning of the 2003-04 school year in the Muskogee Public School District. On September 11, 2003, school officials told the sixth-grader that she could no longer wear her hijab because of the “no hats” policy in the school’s dress code. The dress code, however, had not been applied consistently, and the school district had allowed students to wear hats for medical, educational, and other secular purposes. When the sixth-grader refused to remove her hijab, she was suspended for eight days.

In October 2003, the student, through her father, sued the school district for alleged violations of her constitutional rights and Oklahoma law. The United States opened an investigation in November 2003, and then intervened in the lawsuit upon finding evidence to support a claim based on the denial of her rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. On May 6, 2004, the United States filed a motion for summary judgment and an accompanying memorandum in support.

On May 20, 2004, the parties negotiated a consent order. Under the six-year consent order, the school district must: allow the plaintiff to wear her hijab; make similar religious accommodations for any other student in the school system who has a bona fide religious objection to the dress code; implement a training program for all teachers and administrators regarding the revised dress code; and publicize the revisions to students and parents. The district also must certify its compliance with the terms of the order to the United States for a four-year period. The private plaintiffs and the school district also negotiated a confidential damages settlement and the claim for expungement of her school records. For more on this settlement, please see the press release linked here.

Jefferson Independent School District & United States
v. Texas Education Agency
Elementary and Secondary EducationIn-School SegregationRace
Special EducationDisability In this long-standing desegregation case involving the Jefferson (Texas) Independent School District (JISD), the Section undertook informal discovery to assess whether the district was complying with its desegregation order and applicable federal law. Based on its review of the district, the Section determined that it had concerns in the following areas: in-school assignments; faculty hiring and attrition; extra-curricular activities; and the absence of a bi-racial advisory committee. The Section consented to a declaration of partial unitary status in the areas of transportation, facilities, and transfers.

Following negotiations, the parties agreed to a consent order, which the court approved on July 14, 2000. The order required the district to take steps to increase African-American student participation in its gifted program and its advanced classes. To decrease the number of African-American students in resource classes, the order also required the district to annually evaluate students in resource classes to determine if placement in a regular class would be more appropriate. The JISD provided three reports in conjunction with its requirements under the order, as well as supplemental reports requested by the Section. On October 16, 2001, the parties agreed to, and the court signed, an agreed order of dismissal, indicating that the JISD had achieved unitary states in all facets of its operations.

Lee and United States v. Macon Elementary and Secondary EducationSpecial Education
DisabilityRace

This statewide settlement resolved issues relating to the overrepresentation of black students in the mental retardation and emotional disturbance special education classifications and the underrepresentation of black students in the specific learning disabilities and gifted and talented special education classifications. This consent decree, approved by the court on August 30, 2000, involves special education issues that were raised as a result of information gathered during unitary status reviews in eleven desegregation cases pending before the United States District Court in the Middle District of Alabama. Parties to the decree include the United States, private plaintiffs, and the Alabama State Department of Education.

The settlement required the State of Alabama to undertake initiatives in providing teacher training, to establish a program to improve reading achievement, and to make changes to Alabama administrative law in the areas of pre-referral, referral, evaluation procedures, and eligibility criteria. This emphasis on pre-referral intervention services resulted in substantial changes over the six years of implementing the consent decree. There have been significant reductions in racial disparities in the special education classifications of mental retardation (MR), and disparities have been virtually eliminated in the classifications of emotional disturbance (ED) and specific learning disabilities (SLD). There also has been an overall decrease in the number of students classified as MR or ED, and increases in students classified as SLD. The number of black students classified as gifted also has increased.

The settlement also required reevaluation of certain categories of minority students who had been identified as MR. As a result, several hundred students who had been inappropriately placed as MR were exited from special education. These students were provided with appropriate supplemental services to help transition successfully into the general education program, and were carefully monitored during this process.

Lee & United States v. Macon County Board of Education (Clay County) Elementary and Secondary EducationRace

In this school desegregation case, the parties entered into a consent decree, which provided for the closure of two K-12 schools and the consolidation of the students into two central school zones. One of the K-12 schools to be closed had a virtually all-white student body and had never graduated a black student. The day after the decree was filed, the school board voted to rescind its consent. The Section filed a motion to enforce the consent decree, arguing that once the board had given its consent, granted authority to counsel to sign on its behalf, and jointly filed the consent decree, the board was bound by the terms of the consent decree.

At the same time, two groups moved to intervene in the case for the purpose of opposing the consent decree. The groups comprised parents, students, and other citizens from each of the two schools scheduled for closure. The Section filed briefs opposing both motions for intervention – one against the Mellow Valley School intervenors and one against the Bibb Graves School intervenors – arguing that the proposed intervenors did not express a cognizable interest in furthering desegregation, and, even if they had, the United States and private plaintiffs adequately represented any such interest.

On May 13, 2003, the district court accepted all of the Section's arguments and entered an order (1) denying the Board's motion to rescind its consent, (2) denying both motions to intervene, and (3) enforcing the consent decree. The parties worked to implement the consent decree, and the two schools were successfully closed prior to the beginning of the 2003-04 school year. The two groups of unsuccessful intervenors appealed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which ultimately dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Lovins and United States v. Pleasant Hill Public School District HarassmentTitle IXSex

The Section intervened in this same-sex peer harassment case alleging that the school district violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by failing to respond appropriately to harassment of a student on the basis of sex. Specifically, we alleged in our complaint-in-intervention that from the eighth grade through the eleventh grade, Jeremy Lovins was subjected to harassment on the basis of sex (ostensibly because other students believed that he was gay); that Jeremy and his parents repeatedly informed school officials of the harassment but that the harassment continued; and that Jeremy was eventually subjected to an assault and forced to leave school because of the harassment. A consent decree settling the case was signed and entered by the federal district court on July 31, 2000.

The consent decree included monetary relief for Mr. Lovins in the amount of $72,500 and injunctive relief. Under the consent decree, the school district agreed, among other things, to conduct a climate assessment of student-to-student and teacher-to-student relations within its schools; to develop a comprehensive plan to identify, prevent, and remedy harassment and discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation; to educate and train teachers, staff, and students about the operation of the policy and procedures; to maintain written records of complaints and investigations; and to file implementation reports with the Section and the district court.

Madison and United States v. Sullivan
County Board of Education
HarassmentTitle VIRace

The two plaintiffs alleged, among other things, that the Sullivan County Board of Education (SCBE) violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by failing to appropriately address known student-on-student harassment on the basis of race. Specifically, plaintiffs' amended complaint alleges that both Michael and Marquita Madison, who are black, were subjected to ongoing racial harassment while attending Sullivan East High School (East). This harassment included a constant barrage of racial slurs, some made within earshot of teachers, racially derogatory graffiti on walls and desks, and racially offensive paraphernalia. Though school officials knew or should have known of the harassment, they failed to take appropriate steps to address it. Marquita eventually transferred to another school after her sophomore year. Michael fell victim to a racially-motivated assault outside the school cafeteria his junior year. He did not return to East after the assault and finished high school on homebound studies.

The Section filed its complaint-in-intervention, motion to intervene, and supporting memorandum in November 2000. In our complaint-in-intervention, we sought monetary relief for the plaintiffs and injunctive relief, such as policies and procedures to prevent or address such harassment in the future. The court granted the Section's intervention on November 28, 2000. The parties conducted discovery in 2001 and early 2002. Following discovery, the parties negotiated a consent order and monetary settlement of the Title VI and equal protection claims. Under the consent order, which was approved by the Court on October 16, 2002, the school system agreed to retain an expert to develop a comprehensive plan to prevent, identify, and remedy harassment and discrimination; provide an education and training program for teachers, staff, and students about the school district's policies prohibiting harassment and discrimination; and maintain written records of each harassment allegation received, investigation conducted and corrective action taken by the district to ensure a consistent and effective review of allegations. For more details about the settlement, please see the press release linked here.

Miller and United States v. Board of Education of Gadsden Elementary and Secondary EducationRace

On November 18, 1963, private plaintiffs filed this case complaining that the Gadsden City Board of Education was maintaining a segregated school system. On May 9, 1966, the Section intervened and joined the plaintiffs in seeking injunctive relief that would bring the school system into conformity with federal constitutional and statutory provisions.

Over the years, the court issued a series of orders aimed at eliminating the vestiges of past discrimination and completely desegregating the school system. In July 2003, the court approved the parties' proposed consent order that required the school district to take remedial actions in the areas of student assignment, personnel assignment, facilities, and quality of education. The consent order required the district to assign students randomly to classrooms and to enforce attendance zone lines strictly. With respect to personnel assignment, the consent order required the district to increase efforts to recruit minority teachers and to ensure that each school had a faculty whose racial diversity was reflective of the district-wide faculty. The consent order also required the district to make substantial improvements to its secondary schools so that these facilities were all of comparable quality. Finally, with respect to quality of education, the consent order required the district to equalize its offering of and access to advanced and honor classes among secondary schools. Having fulfilled these obligations, the district was declared unitary on August 26, 2005.

Monroe and United States v. Jackson-Madison
County School System Board of Education
Elementary and Secondary EducationRace

In this long-standing school desegregation case, the Jackson-Madison County School Board filed a motion for unitary status in December 1999, asserting that it had complied in good faith with prior desegregation decrees and had eliminated the vestiges of segregation to the extent practicable. The Section and the private plaintiffs opposed the board's motion for unitary status. The parties engaged in extensive negotiations, which resulted in an agreement shortly before trial in November 2000.

The agreement, which the court approved in December 2000, permits the board to proceed with its plan to construct five new schools and implement revised student attendance zones over the next four years. The agreement includes numerous measures that will further desegregation by voluntary means, including the construction of magnet schools and the introduction of other school choice options. The board is also required to take additional remedial action in faculty and staff assignments, and to encourage minority student participation in all programs and activities. Implementation and monitoring of the agreement is ongoing.

M.A. v. Newark Public Schools  Special EducationDisability

Parents of students with disabilities who allege that their children were not properly identified, evaluated, and provided with special education services filed a class action lawsuit against the Newark Public Schools, the State of New Jersey, and several state officials. The lawsuit alleges that Newark does not have adequate systems in place to comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and that New Jersey has violated its obligation to supervise local implementation of IDEA requirements.

In its motion to dismiss, New Jersey raised a constitutional challenge to the IDEA, claiming that the Eleventh Amendment afforded it immunity against a private lawsuit to enforce the IDEA. The Section sought and was granted intervention to defend the constitutionality of the IDEA. In its brief, the Section argued that New Jersey had agreed to comply with the IDEA and waive its sovereign immunity when it accepted federal IDEA funds to defray the cost of educating students with disabilities. In the alternative, the Section argued that Congress validly abrogated state sovereign immunity pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court accepted both arguments and denied the State's motion to dismiss. The defendants appealed the denials of their motions to dismiss, and the Appellate Section defended the IDEA's constitutionality on appeal. On September 16, 2003, the Third Circuit issued an opinion* affirming the district court's holding that the State of New Jersey had waived its sovereign immunity.

O.T. v. Frenchtown Elementary School District Elementary and Secondary EducationReligion

This religious discrimination case arose after the principal of an elementary school in New Jersey prohibited an eight-year-old girl from singing a Christian song in a voluntary after-school talent show. On May 20, 2005, the student’s parents filed suit in federal district court, alleging that the school violated her constitutional rights by censoring her speech. The school defended the censorship by asserting that (1) the song had an overtly religious and proselytizing message and (2) permitting the song would have violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

On June 19, 2006, the Section filed an amicus brief in support of the student’s motion for summary judgment, arguing that the school engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination by censoring her performance based solely on the religious perspective of her song. The brief also contended that the school’s Establishment Clause justification was unavailing because the song clearly represented the student’s expression, not the school’s.

On December 11, 2006, the district court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, granting summary judgment. In its opinion, the court held that the school’s censorship of “Awesome God” constituted unlawful viewpoint discrimination because the song conformed to the talent show guidelines and the school permitted other acts with religious and “proselytizing” content. The court found that the school did not have “a legitimate pedagogical concern in distancing itself from proselytizing religious speech.” The court further ruled that the school’s Establishment Clause concerns could not justify censoring the plaintiff’s song because the performances in the talent show did not represent school-sponsored speech.

Owen and United States v. L'Anse Area Schools

Elementary and Secondary Education    Religion

This case involves religious harassment by students against a Jewish public school teacher in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Mr. Owen, a veteran teacher of more than 30 years, filed his lawsuit in federal district court in March 2000 after an investigation by the Detroit office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission concluded that his complaint had merit. The United States intervened in October 2000, alleging that the L'Anse Area Schools subjected Mr. Owen to religious harassment while he was employed by the school district. The United States alleged that Mr. Owen had been the target of numerous incidents of anti-Semitic harassment by his students, including the drawing and etching of swastikas and hate messages such as "Die Jews," "Kill Owen," "KKK," and "White Power" in and around his classroom on multiple occasions and the placement of a hangman's noose on his classroom door. The United States alleged that the school district failed to take effective measures to remedy the harassment and to keep it from recurring despite Mr. Owen's repeated complaints. Further, the United States alleged that as a result of the harassment, Mr. Owen was forced to take an extended medical leave and ultimately retire from the school district.

Following discovery and an unsuccessful motion for summary judgment by the school district, the parties entered mediation, reaching a settlement agreement in March 2002. Under the agreement, which the district court approved on April 11, 2002, Mr. Owen was paid $265,000. The agreement also required the school district to review and revise its policies; train its employees to recognize, investigate and address harassment and discrimination; and educate its students about the inappropriateness of harassment and discrimination. In addition, the agreement required the district’s faculty and staff to report actual or suspected incidents of harassment or discrimination to appropriate school officials. The Justice Department monitored the school district's compliance with the settlement agreement for three years, and the case was dismissed on December 15, 2005.

Pedersen and United States v. South Dakota
High School Activities Association
Title IXSex

In this matter involving sex discrimination, several high school girls and their representatives filed a complaint alleging that the South Dakota High School Activities Association (SDHSAA) violated Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Specifically, the plaintiffs contended that the SDHSAA discriminated against female athletes by requiring girls to play certain sports (basketball and volleyball) in disadvantageous seasons. Playing in disadvantageous seasons can result in substantial harms that deny female high school athletes equal athletic opportunities, including, among others, the ability to participate in interstate competition and club competition, the opportunity to be recruited for collegiate-level sports programs, and the opportunity to have the same number of games and practices as similarly-situated boys' sports teams.

On October 17, 2000, the Department was granted leave to intervene in the lawsuit as a plaintiff-party in support of the high school girls. Subsequently, the SDHSAA moved for summary judgment on the issue of whether the association was subject to Title IX and whether it is a state actor for purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Before any further briefing was completed, however, the parties agreed to engage in mediation and ultimately reached a settlement. Pursuant to the parties' stipulation, the Court entered a Consent Order on December 5, 2000, requiring the SDHSAA to schedule girls' high school volleyball during the traditional fall season and girls' high school basketball during the traditional winter season beginning with the 2002-03 school year. The SDHSAA submitted a detailed plan which was subsequently agreed to by the plaintiff-parties and approved by the Court.

In June of 2002 and shortly before the season switch was to take place, a group of parents and students filed a separate lawsuit in state court that was removed to federal court, Hoffman v. South Dakota High Sch. Activities Ass'n, C.A. No. 02-4127 (D. S.D.), seeking to challenge the Consent Order entered in the Pedersen case, or in the alternative, to delay the season switch for four more years. The Hoffman plaintiffs also filed a motion for preliminary injunction seeking to enjoin the season switch immediately. The Department moved to intervene in the lawsuit as a defendant to uphold the prior Consent Order entered in the Pedersen case and the district court granted the Department's motion to intervene. The Department also filed a motion to dismiss the Hoffman lawsuit on procedural grounds that the district court held in abeyance until after the hearing on the motion for a preliminary injunction. The district court conducted a three-day evidentiary hearing on the merits of the Hoffman case at which the Department presented evidence. Shortly thereafter, the district court issued an opinion denying the Hoffman plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. On January 22, 2003, the district court granted the Department's motion to dismiss and dismissed the Hoffman lawsuit with prejudice.

During the 2002-03 school year, all public schools and members of the SDHSAA successfully implemented the season switch, requiring high school girls to play volleyball in the traditional fall season and basketball in the traditional winter season. The SDHSAA reported in the media, among other things, increased participation numbers for the affected girls' sports and the scheduling of interstate competitions between South Dakota girls' basketball and volleyball teams with girls' teams from Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska for the first time in the state's history.

Putman v. Somerset Independent Schools HarassmentTitle IXSex

In this peer-on-peer sexual harassment case, a student alleged that his rights were violated under Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. More specifically, the student contended that the school district failed to take adequate steps to protect him from an ongoing campaign of sexual harassment by his peers.

The harassment included three written death threats; repeated and unwanted sexual contact; offensive and hostile verbal abuse; and other acts involving intimidation and humiliation. The student claimed that the district failed to take prompt and effective action to put an end to the continued harassment.

In response to defendants' motion to have the case dismissed, the Section submitted an amicus curiae brief in support of the plaintiff. In this brief, the Section argued that a Title IX claim was appropriate in this case because of the nature and severity of harassment involving conduct of a sexual nature. Furthermore, the Section argued that the student's Equal Protection claim, challenging discrimination based on his actual or perceived sexual orientation, should not be dismissed.

Following the amicus participation of the Section and mediation between the plaintiff and defendants, the case settled. In addition to monetary relief for the plaintiff, the school district modified its sexual harassment policies, applicable to both students and employees, to prohibit discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation. The modified policies also describe the school district's responsibilities and the recourse available to victims of discrimination.

Scheidt v. Tri- Creek School Corporation Elementary and Secondary EducationReligion

The Tri-Creek Corporation School District in Indiana had an attendance policy that allowed for only one day of excused absences for religious observance. After a student missed more than one day for religious worship, the District’s attendance policy stated that the student would be given an unexcused absence and subjected to various sanctions, including loss of academic credit, inability to make up work, and suspension. The policy also stated that legal action may be taken against the parent.

After receiving a complaint about the enforcement of Tri-Creek’s policy, the United States intervened in the case, Scheidt v. Tri-Creek School Corporation, on behalf of Ruth Scheidt and her son, M.S., both adherents to the religious tenets of the United Church of God. During the 2004-05 school year, M.S. was given eight unexcused absences for documented religious attendance; teachers failed to allow him to make up classwork; and the district threatened expulsion and legal action, including the filing of educational neglect charges against Ms. Scheidt. On August 10, 2005, the Section filed a brief asserting that Tri-Creek’s attendance policy violated Ms. Scheidt and her son’s right to exercise their religion freely, and Ms. Scheidt’s right to raise her son consistent with her religious beliefs.

Shortly after the Section's intervention, the District and the plaintiffs reached a settlement that: (1) absences for religious observances will be recorded as “excused” and credit given for timely make-up work; and (2) school attendance policies will be revised to accommodate religious observances. Unlike in the past, there is now no limit on the number of excused absences a student may receive for religious observance.

Smith v. Winters Higher EducationTitle VIRace

In this race discrimination case, the plaintiffs sued the University of South Florida (USF), alleging that it had violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by retaliating against black players on the USF women's basketball team who had complained to university officials about discriminatory treatment by the head coach. At the summary judgment stage, the Section filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs, arguing that Title VI prohibits retaliation against individuals who complain of racially discriminatory treatment, and that this prohibition is necessary to protect the victims of racial discrimination and concerned third parties who come forward with their complaints. Prior to the court ruling on the summary judgment motion, the parties settled the case.

Steven L. v. LeMahieu Special EducationDisability

This case involves claims against the Department of Education of the State of Hawaii and various government officials for alleged violations of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Plaintiffs alleged, among other things, that defendants intentionally discriminated against Aaron L. because of his disability (Down Syndrome), failed to provide him with appropriate special education services, and denied him a free appropriate public education, all in violation of Section 504 and the IDEA. Plaintiffs sought compensatory and punitive damages, as well as injunctive and other equitable relief.

Both defendants and plaintiffs moved for partial summary judgment. Defendants asserted that plaintiffs' claims are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Plaintiffs asserted that they should be able to demonstrate discriminatory intent, for purposes of obtaining compensatory damages under Section 504, with evidence that defendants acted with deliberate indifference or conscious disregard for their federal rights.

In its intervention brief filed on May 25, 2001, the Section defended the constitutionality of Section 504 and the IDEA. The Section also filed an amicus brief arguing that a plaintiff seeking compensatory damages under Section 504 may rely on the deliberate indifference standard to prove discriminatory intent.

On June 18, 2001, the district court upheld the constitutionality of Section 504 and the IDEA, and ruled that a plaintiff seeking compensatory damages under Section 504 may establish intentional discrimination by showing that the defendant acted with deliberate indifference to the plaintiff's federally protected rights.

United States v. Aberdeen Municipal Separate School District Elementary and Secondary EducationIn-School SegregationRace In this long-standing desegregation case, a consent decree negotiated between the Section and the school district was approved by the court on October 15, 2004. The consent decree includes provisions requiring the district to: cease assigning students to classrooms in a manner that creates racially segregated classrooms; conduct an investigation of racial differences in assignment to its gifted and talented program; alter its method for assigning students to honors classes; cease allowing the use of race-conscious policies or procedures in all of its extracurricular activities; and desegregate certain bus routes. United States v. Bertie County Board of Education Elementary and Secondary EducationRace

In this long-standing desegregation case involving the Bertie County (North Carolina) Board of Education, the Section commenced informal discovery to assess whether the school district was complying with its desegregation order and applicable federal law. Based on its review of the district, the Section identified concerns regarding the school district’s assignment of students, faculty and staff assignments, and student transfer policies. The school district and the Section engaged in good-faith negotiations about these and other issues, but were not able to develop a mutually satisfactory agreement.

On September 26, 2002, the Section filed a motion requesting further relief. In its supporting memorandum of law, the Section asked the district court to order the school district to develop a new desegregation plan that would address vestiges of segregation in student, faculty, and staff assignments as well as student transfers. On April 22, 2003, the district court issued an order granting the Section's motion and directing the school district to file a new desegregation plan to address the vestiges identified in the Section's motion.

On December 19, 2003, the school district filed its proposed desegregation plan. After discovery and negotiations, the Section filed a response to the plan on February 24, 2005. In this response, the Section objected only in part to the proposed student assignment plan, which would have failed to desegregate Askewville Elementary School to the extent practicable. The Section also recommended consideration of more effective alternatives for desegregation and raised the issue of the poor condition of JP Law Elementary School, a small historically black school with declining enrollment. The parties reached an interim agreement on these lingering issues, which culminated in a consent order entered on June 24, 2005. This order called for the reconfiguration of attendance zone lines for Askewville, an independent facilities assessment of the elementary and middle schools in the district, and the development of a new student assignment plan.

Following the completion of the facilities assessment and further negotiations, the parties reached agreement about student assignment, transfers, and facilities. This agreement, reflected in the court-approved consent order of March 17, 2006, established a timeline for closing Askewville and JP Law Elementary Schools and required the re-drawing of elementary school attendance zone lines. The order also prohibited the consideration of race in classroom assignments in other elementary schools and enumerated annual reporting requirements. Finally, the order declared that the school district had complied with its desegregation obligations with respect to transportation, extra-curricular activities, and faculty and staff assignment.

United States v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago Elementary and Secondary EducationEnglish Language Learners
RaceNational Origin

In 1980, the United States filed suit against the Chicago Board of Education (the board) alleging that the board was violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Titles IV and VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by unlawfully segregating students in its schools on the basis of race and national origin. On the same day that the United States filed its complaint, the parties filed a school desegregation consent decree that the court entered on September 24, 1980. The consent decree required the board to develop a system-wide desegregation plan to remedy the present effects of past segregation of black and Hispanic students, and to that end, called for the board to establish the greatest practicable number of stably desegregated schools, considering all the circumstances in Chicago, and to provide educational and related programs for any black or Hispanic schools remaining segregated.

In January 2003, the court directed the parties to examine the continued viability of the 1980 consent decree. The parties evaluated the board’s compliance with its desegregation obligations and jointly developed a modified consent decree that sought to achieve the goals of the original consent decree under the changed factual and legal circumstances facing the board. On March 1, 2004, the Court approved the modified consent decree, which required the board to fulfill obligations in the following areas: student assignment; faculty assignment; facilities; transportation; compensatory and supplemental programs; desegregation funding; discipline; higher level course offerings; extracurricular activities; and English Language Learner (“ELL”) programs. The modified decree contained numerous provisions to ensure that ELL students receive appropriate language support services and equitable access to the board’s programs.

The United States moved to enforce the modified consent decree on four occasions. On one such occasion, the United States filed a motion to enforce the board’s desegregation funding obligations and its duty to provide majority-to-minority (“M-to-M transfers”). The board filed an opposition, and the United States filed a reply. On December 7, 2004, the court issued an opinion in favor of the United States. On August 26, 2005, the United States filed a motion to show cause because the board once again failed to comply with its desegregation funding duties. The board filed an opposition, and the United States filed a reply. On September 21, 2005, the court ruled that the board’s 2005-06 desegregation budget did not comply with the modified consent decree. The parties resolved this dispute through a stipulated settlement that the court approved on November 9, 2005.

In the fall of 2005, the court asked the parties and amici to file position papers on whether the modified consent decree should be dismissed or continued in an altered form. The court scheduled a hearing to address this question. The United States filed a position paper arguing that certain obligations of the modified consent decree should continue and engaged in extensive discovery regarding the board’s compliance. The parties settled their disputes over the modified consent decree and filed briefs requesting court approval of a second amended consent decree. On August 10, 2006, the court issued an order approving the parties’ settlement with slight modifications. The August 10, 2006 order requires the board to: continue magnet and specialized schools, offer M-to-M transfers, monitor open enrollment transfers to ensure that they do not negatively impact desegregation, fund compensatory programs at racially isolated schools, take steps to diversify the applicant pool for principals, and provide adequate services to ELL students. The United States is monitoring the board’s compliance with this order.

United States v. Calhoun County School District Elementary and Secondary EducationRace

In this desegregation case, the United States determined that the Calhoun County school district was permitting students to transfer to any school in the district without regard to the impact these transfers had on the school district's desegregation obligations. The United States and the school district agreed on a transfer policy that governs the transfer of students within the school district and to other school districts. The parties presented the transfer policy as part of a consent decree that was submitted to the federal district court for its consideration and approval. In 2004, the parties also agreed to the consolidation of all middle school grades at one school located in the district. This agreement was approved by the court and became effective in the 2004-05 school year.

United States v. City of New York (Lafayette High School) English Language LearnersNational OriginHarassment

In 2001, the Section received complaints from Asian students at Lafayette High School (LHS) in Brooklyn, NY that alleged numerous instances of national origin discrimination. This discrimination took many forms, ranging from inadequate services for English Language Learner (ELL) students to school officials’ indifferent reaction to persistent verbal and physical peer harassment of Asian students. In one well-publicized case, four Chinese students returning to LHS for their senior year were informed that they had graduated the previous year, though guidance counselors had erroneously informed them otherwise. School officials initially prohibited the graduated students from returning to high school for an additional year of college preparation, notwithstanding the fact that it was too late for them to apply for college admission or receive financial aid. In other cases, Asian students at LHS who assumed they were on track to graduate were forced to return for additional semesters after falling one or two credits short of their graduation requirement when counselors failed to schedule them for the correct classes.

After a lengthy investigation the United States filed a complaint against the City of New York and the Board of Education of the New York City School District on February 2, 2004. The United States alleged violations of Title IV of the Civil Rights Act stemming from defendants’ failure to ameliorate the hostile environment for Asian students at LHS, and further charged that defendants violated the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (EEOA) by failing to take appropriate action to help ELL students overcome their language barriers. Four months later, the parties entered into a consent decree that obliged defendants to develop a compliance plan to remedy the transgressions alleged in the United States’ complaint. The Section, in collaboration with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York, is currently monitoring the defendants’ performance under the compliance plan to ensure that there is no recurrence of the events that gave rise to the complaint.

United States v. Commonwealth of Virginia (VMI) Higher EducationSex

The Section brought suit against Virginia in 1990 under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, after receiving a signed, written complaint from a female high school student in Virginia about the males-only admission policy of the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). In 1996, the Supreme Court ruled that Virginia had failed to justify its exclusion of women from VMI's unique educational program.

Following the Supreme Court's decision and VMI's admission of women in 1997, the Section monitored the integration of women into the institution. As a result of a March 21, 2000 Order requiring Virginia to provide more extensive information on its integration efforts at VMI, the Section reviewed reports regarding male and female students in the areas of recruitment and admissions, retention, financial aid, gender relations, physical training, and women's varsity athletics. The Section worked cooperatively with Virginia to resolve its concerns arising from information contained in the reports, and, as a result, the parties signed and the court entered a Joint Motion for Dismissal on December 6, 2001.

United States v. Cotton Plant School District #1
(Watson Chapel School District #24)
Elementary and Secondary EducationIn-School SegregationRace In this school desegregation case, the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights forwarded a complaint alleging, among other things, that the district discriminates on the basis of race by transporting black students from the Sulphur Springs Elementary School (Sulphur Springs) attendance zone to other schools in the district to maintain Sulphur Springs as a virtually all-white school. The Section investigated the complaint by visiting the district, meeting the community members, and interviewing black parents in the Sulphur Spring community. The Section determined that the district had pursued discriminatory policies and practices that had perpetuated Sulphur Springs as an identifiably white school in a majority-black district.

The parties attempted to negotiate a settlement but were unsuccessful. On July 30, 2001, the Division filed a motion for further relief and request for preliminary injunction with supporting memorandum in federal district court. On August 9, 2001, the court held a hearing in which the Section presented evidence about the district's discriminatory policies. Specifically, the district adopted a de facto freedom of choice plan in which a discretionary (un-advertised) attendance policy required that students affirmatively request assignment to the school. In effect, white students from within and outside the zone "opted-in" and requested assignment and black students did not. Eligible black students living within Sulphur Springs attendance zone were bused past the school to attend an elementary school farther away. At the same time, white students living outside the attendance zone were assigned to Sulphur Springs. Though the court denied the United States' request for a preliminary injunction to have the district immediately enjoined from further operation of Sulphur Springs until it adopted a plan to fully desegregate the school, the court ruled that the district must implement a new desegregation plan for Sulphur Springs prior to the beginning of the 2002-03 school year.

On November 13, 2001, the district proposed to close Sulphur Springs permanently after the 2001-02 school year. On December 13, 2001, in the United States' Response to Defendant's Proposed Attendance Plan for Sulphur Springs Elementary School, the Section interposed no objection to the district's proposal to close the school.

United States v. Covington County School District Elementary and Secondary EducationRace

In this long-standing desegregation case involving the Covington County (Mississippi) School District, the Section had concerns about the district’s two virtually one-race schools, how the district’s staff assignment and school construction have reinforced those two virtually one-race schools, and the district’s use of race in extracurricular activities and awards (to include race-based homecoming queens). Despite the fact that the district overall enrolled about half-black students and half-white students, the district nevertheless maintained one virtually one-race black elementary school, Hopewell (grades K-6), and one virtually one-race white attendance center, Seminary (grades K-12), that enrolled over 60% of all of the white students in the district. Hopewell is the only school in the district without a neighborhood middle or high school. Upon graduating from Hopewell, Hopewell students attended grades 7-12 at a majority black middle and high school (ranked passing and Level III in academic achievement by the state) about 10-12 minutes by bus from Seminary (ranked highest achieving and Level V in academic achievement by the state). The district and the Section engaged in good-faith negotiations about these and other issues, but were not able to develop a mutually satisfactory agreement.

On November 25, 2003, the Section filed a motion requesting further relief and a memorandum of law in support of that motion. In its filings, the Section asked the district court to order the school district to develop a new desegregation plan that would address vestiges of segregation in student assignment, staff assignment, school construction, and extracurricular activities.

On April 28, 2005, the United States filed a motion for partial summary judgment, challenging the district’s race-based extracurricular activities. The district then agreed to enter into a Consent Decree that required it to cease any practices utilizing a student’s race, color, or national origin in the selection or eligibility for participation in any extracurricular activity and to develop written racially non-discriminatory extracurricular activity policies.

On March 8, 2006, after additional discovery and extensive settlement discussions, the district and the United States entered into a Consent Decree resolving the remaining issues in the case. As a result of this Consent Decree, the district made the following modifications, among others, to its existing desegregation plan for the following school year: (1) all students attending Hopewell for grades K-6 will attend Seminary for grades 7-12, thereby eventually desegregating Seminary for grades 7-12; (2) the district committed to publicize its Majority-to-Minority transfer program; (3) the district committed to implement a compensatory enrichment program at Hopewell (a pre-K program) with the primary purpose to “enhance education” at Hopewell and the secondary purpose to “encourage white students who reside in other attendance zones” to attend Hopewell; (4) the district is required to conduct a facilities organization study and to submit all plans for construction and renovation to the United States prior to commencing any construction and renovation at Seminary; and (5) the district is required to engage in a comprehensive analysis of the bus routes for Hopewell students in order to reduce the length of all such bus routes to the extent practicable.

United States and Hearne Independent School District v. Texas Elementary and Secondary EducationRace

This case arose out of a long-standing school desegregation suit filed by the United States against the State of Texas, Texas Education Agency (“TEA”), and various school districts. In 1971, the district court entered a desegregation order that, among other things, prohibited TEA from approving or funding interdistrict student transfers that have the cumulative effect of reducing or impeding desegregation in one of the districts. In 2003, Hearne Independent School District (“Hearne”) intervened in the underlying suit, claiming that transfers from Hearne to Mumford Independent School District (“Mumford”) had reduced or impeded desegregation in Hearne, and that TEA improperly continued to fund those transfers. In 2004, the Division filed a motion to enforce the desegregation order against TEA and Mumford.

After a bench trial, the district court found that the transfers from Hearne to Mumford reduced desegregation in Hearne, that Mumford had engaged in fraudulent conduct to circumvent the requirements of the desegregation order, and that the TEA had not complied with the order. The district court enjoined Mumford from accepting–and TEA from funding–all of the transfers that reduced or impeded desegregation in Hearne. Mumford and TEA subsequently appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

On July 24, 2006, the Fifth Circuit reversed and vacated the district court’s judgment. In its opinion, the Fifth Circuit held that the district court’s factual findings were clearly erroneous and that its remedy was overly broad. The Fifth Circuit further held that Mumford could not be held liable for violating the desegregation order without a finding that it intentionally engaged in segregative conduct because it was not a party defendant to the original desegregation lawsuit.

United States v. Lowndes County School District Elementary and Secondary EducationRace

The Lowndes County school district has been under a desegregation order since 1970. In 2002 and 2003, private plaintiffs brought suits against the school district asserting that it was not complying with its desegregation obligations, primarily in West Lowndes, an all-black area of the district. These complaints were consolidated with the United States’ case in 2004. After investigating the complaints, including poorer facilities and a weaker educational curriculum at the all-black schools in West Lowndes, the United States approached the school district with several demands to settle the matter short of litigation.

In January 2006, the Court signed a consent order requiring that the district make significant changes in the next year to further desegregation. With regard to facilities issues, the district must purchase land adjacent to the West Lowndes high school and build a baseball field at this all-black high school comparable to that at the majority white high schools. The district also must: upgrade portions of the all-black high school to make the building comparable to those of the majority white high schools; create a band and football practice field at the all-black high school; and remedy short-comings at the all-black elementary and middle schools, including upgrading certain classrooms, renovating an auditorium/gymnasium, and removing unseemly sewage lagoons on these premises. Because the district was teaching no advanced placement ("AP") classes at the all-black high school, in contrast to an array of course offerings at the majority white schools, the district must implement educational programming at the West Lowndes middle school that will foster future AP and advanced classes at the high school. This includes offering advanced classes, even if only requested by one child, at both the middle and high school, and requiring teacher training to identify students who should be placed in such classes. The district also has committed to cease utilizing race-conscious policies in the selection of extracurricular activities, such as class superlatives and homecoming courts.

United States v. Marion County School District Elementary and Secondary EducationRace

In 1978, the United States sued the Marion County School District (Florida) for maintaining a segregated school system. In 1983, the district court approved a Stipulated Agreement of the parties that, among other things, implemented a plan for further desegregation of the district, including the conversion of two de jure and almost 100% black schools into a district-wide magnet. Since that time, the court entered a decree in 1995 and a modified decree in 2004 to resolve the outstanding desegregation issues. The 2004 modified decree clarified the requirements in the 1995 decree and set forth detailed provisions regarding student assignment (including a policy on out-of-area transfers), the magnet schools, new school construction, staff assignment and recruitment, and the district's reporting obligations.

United States v. North Plainfield Board of Education English Language LearnersNational Origin

In this matter involving the North Plainfield, New Jersey school district, the Section reviewed whether the district was providing appropriate instruction and services to English Language Learners (ELLs), as required by the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (EEOA). Based on its review of the district, the Section raised concerns about, among other things: the school district's procedures for screening new students to determine whether they are ELLs; the opportunities that ELLs have to integrate with native speakers of English in a school setting; the extent to which the district's school libraries and media centers are accessible to ELLs; and the academic support provided by the district to ELLs who enroll in general education classes. The school district and the Section engaged in good-faith negotiations about these and other issues, and on September 3, 2004, entered into a settlement agreement outlining the measures that the school district will take to ensure that it complies with the EEOA.

United States v. Plainfield Board of Education English Language LearnersNational Origin

In this matter involving the Plainfield, New Jersey School District, the Section reviewed whether the district was providing appropriate instruction and services to English Language Learners (ELLs), as required by the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (EEOA). Based on its review of the district, the Section raised concerns about, among other things: the school district's procedures for screening new students to determine whether they are ELLs; the opportunities that ELLs have to integrate with native speakers of English in a school setting; the extent to which the district's school libraries and media centers are accessible to ELLs; and the academic support provided by the district to ELLs who enroll in general education classes. The school district and the Section engaged in good-faith negotiations about these and other issues, and on June 30, 2003, entered into a settlement agreement outlining the measures that the school district will take to ensure that it complies with the EEOA. The district compiled in good faith with the settlement agreement that ended on June 30, 2006.

United States v. Port Arthur Independent School District Elementary and Secondary EducationRace

After finding noncompliance with the extant desegregation order in this case, the Division negotiated a settlement agreement with the district in 2001. In 2003, the school district moved for unitary status and dismissal of the case despite its noncompliance with the 2001 agreement. The Division filed an opposition to the motion on grounds of noncompliance. Following briefing on the issues, the parties negotiated a new agreement that required the district to take specified steps in the areas of student and faculty assignment. Under the agreement, the district has agreed to establish a magnet program at a historically black school, to strictly enforce its student transfer policies, and to assign faculty and staff in a way that does not perpetuate the historic racial identifiability of the district's schools. Given the district's history of noncompliance, the agreement precludes the district from moving for unitary status for at least two years to allow monitoring of the district's performance.

United States and Ridley v. State of Georgia
(Dublin City & Laurens County School Districts)
Elementary and Secondary EducationIn-School SegregationRace
Special EducationDisability

The Section assessed whether the Dublin City school district (Dublin) was complying with its school desegregation orders and applicable federal law. In the course of its review, the Section determined that Dublin’s ability grouping and heterogeneous class assignments were violating a desegregation order. The Section also determined that Dublin was using race-based class assignments to dissuade white students from transferring to the surrounding majority white district of Laurens County (Laurens) and that transfers from Dublin to Laurens were negatively impacting desegregation in Dublin’s schools. The Section attempted unsuccessfully to negotiate voluntary relief with Dublin and Laurens.

On April 15, 2004, the Section filed a motion and supporting memorandum to hold Dublin in contempt for its class assignment violations and for further relief against Dublin and Laurens to enforce an order governing interdistrict transfers. Dublin moved for unitary status, and the Section filed an opposition. Pursuant to the court’s instructions, the United States filed a motion to join Laurens as a necessary defendant and a supplemental complaint against Laurens.

On June 23, 2005, after extensive discovery, the United States and Dublin agreed to a consent order and a settlement agreement that resolved all issues between them, except for the interdistrict transfer issue. The consent order, which was approved by the court on July 1, 2005, governs student assignments to classes and schools, extracurricular activities, and transportation. The settlement agreement governs faculty, administrators, staff, gifted programs, special education, and diploma tracks. Many of the black students improperly classified as having a Mild Intellectual Disability or an Emotional/Behavioral Disorder have been exited from special education under the agreement.

On February 21, 2006, the Section moved for summary judgment against Laurens on the interdistrict transfer issue. Laurens filed an opposition, and the Section filed a reply. The Section also moved for summary judgment against Dublin. Dublin opposed by adopting Laurens’s opposition. Laurens moved for summary judgment on the transfer issue, but Dublin did not. The Section filed an opposition to Laurens’s motion and a motion to exclude Laurens’s expert report. This motion and the parties’ cross motions for summary judgment are fully briefed and pending before the court. To obtain copies of the unsealed exhibits to any of the linked documents, please call (202) 514-4092.

United States and Ridley v. State of Georgia (Meriwether) Elementary and Secondary EducationRace This desegregation case was brought by the United States in 1969 against the State of Georgia and 81 school districts, including the Meriwether County School District (Meriwether). Charlie Ridley and others subsequently joined this action as plaintiff-intervenors. On September 17, 1969, the court issued a detailed regulatory injunction requiring that each of the individual school districts establish a fully integrated school system. Subsequently, in an Order dated July 23, 1973, the court dissolved the regulatory injunction, holding that Meriwether as well as various other school districts had complied for three years with the Supreme Court’s school desegregation mandates. The court placed the cases of these school districts on the inactive docket and entered a permanent injunction designed to prevent the recurrence of a dual system.

In the late 1980's, the litigation was reactivated when the United States and the plaintiff-intervenors moved to compel Meriwether to comply with the July 23, 1973 permanent injunction. Those proceedings resulted in an order dated June 28, 1990, which established a new student attendance zone plan, prohibited most intra-district and inter-district transfers, and required teaching and staff assignments at schools to remain within 5% of the district-wide racial percentages for teachers and staff. The court also ordered Meriwether to offer the same courses above the core curriculum at both Manchester and Greenville High Schools. In 1996, the court approved a five-year facilities plan proposed by the district. In 1999, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s approval of the plan. United States & Ridley v. State of Georgia (Meriwether Co. Bd. Of Educ.), 171 F.3d 1333 (11th Cir. 1999).

On August 28, 2003, Meriwether moved for a declaration of unitary status. The United States objected to the district’s motion. Subsequent to comprehensive discovery and negotiations, the court approved a Consent Decree on October 21, 2004, which essentially requires the district to fully implement the plan previously approved by the court and to see unitary status in 2007.

United States and Sinajini v. San Juan
County School District
Elementary and Secondary EducationRace

The Section intervened in a suit filed by plaintiffs who sought relief from violations of a court-ordered settlement agreement made between private plaintiffs and the district in 1976. The suit involved allegations that defendants failed to provide equal educational services to American Indian students in the district. Our complaint-in-intervention alleged that the district failed to provide equal educational opportunities to American Indian students and failed to provide an appropriate program of education for limited-English-proficient Navajo students. The case was settled by consent agreement and covered the issues raised in our complaint. The settlement called for the establishment of four committees to review the district's programs in general curriculum, special education, and bilingual education and to hear disputes that arise under the agreement. The district has adjusted its educational programs accordingly, including its program for students who are limited English proficient.

United States v. State of Mississippi (Simpson County School District) Elementary and Secondary EducationRace

The Simpson County School District is under a desegregation order and a 1983 Consent Decree specifically governing employment procedures. The District moved for unitary status in November 2001, and the United States thereafter participated in discovery to evaluate the district's progress toward complete desegregation. The United States learned in March 2003 that the District was not following the specific hiring procedures mandated by the 1983 Consent Decree. To address allegations of racial discrimination in employment, the Consent Decree requires the District actively to recruit black applicants for faculty and administrative positions and to do so by advertising all such vacancies outside the district in regional newspapers and with various universities in the state. The District, however, followed a policy of advertising vacancies first within the District and then outside the district only if no qualified applicants were found within. The United States learned that the District sought to fill three vacancies in principal positions this past winter following that practice rather than the procedures mandated by the Consent Decree. Because the District employed no black personnel with the administrative certification necessary for the positions, the District made the positions available only to white persons and considered no black applicants for the job. The practice therefore contravened the purpose of the 1983 Consent Decree, and the United States filed a motion with a supporting memorandum in April 2003 and a reply to enforce the employment procedures detailed therein. A hearing was held on the motion in July 2003, and the court subsequently granted the United States' motion. The court's order required the District to reopen the three principal positions for the 2004-05 school year and to advertise the vacancies according to the requirements of the Consent Decree. Subsequently, the district moved for unitary status and we opposed. The court ruled in our favor and the district has appealed.

United States v. State of Mississippi (McComb Municipal Separate School District) Elementary and Secondary EducationIn-School SegregationRace

In this desegregation case, the United States determined that the McComb school district had violated the terms of a long-standing consent decree by grouping disproportionate numbers of white students into particular classrooms at two elementary schools. As a consequence of this “clustering” policy, a significant number of black students were assigned to all-black classrooms at the two schools. Subsequent investigation revealed that the District also was impermissibly using raced-based procedures to select students for certain school-sponsored accolades, including McComb High School’s homecoming queen and court. These procedures had the effect of establishing separate elections for black and white candidates, such that an equal number of students from each race would qualify for particular awards.

In March 2004, the District moved for unitary status. The United States filed a response and a motion for further relief. After two years of discovery, the United States filed an opposition to the District’s motion for unitary status, which stated the United States' objections to unitary status in the areas of student assignment and extracurricular activities, but stipulated to unitary status and dismissal in the areas of transportation, hiring of faculty and administrators, facilities, and resource management. On July 13, 2006, the Court held a hearing to address the remaining areas of dispute, and the parties await the Court’s ruling.

United States v. Tunica County School District Elementary and Secondary EducationRace

In this school construction case, the Section investigated the school district's plans to build a new elementary school in a particular section of Tunica County, Mississippi. This district has a majority black population, and concerns were raised that the proposed school would serve primarily white students and would cause further housing segregation in the county.

Because the school district was under order to desegregate its schools, the district had to obtain the court's approval for its plan. The Section submitted a brief providing the relevant legal standards for evaluating both the need for a new school and the appropriateness of the proposed location. Shortly thereafter, the parties entered into a consent order. As a result of the November 29, 1999 consent order, the District’s new elementary school was built two miles south of the originally proposed location, at a site that is closer to existing black communities. Additionally, the County Board of Supervisors, supported by state housing agencies, adopted a new affordable housing plan to expand housing opportunities throughout the county.

United States v. West Carroll Parish School District Elementary and Secondary EducationRace

In the course of reviewing the West Carroll Parish school district's compliance with its desegregation orders, the Section became concerned about zone jumping within the district and student transfers from outside of the district. As a result, the Section negotiated Agreed Modifications to the Residency Verification and Transfer Provisions of the 1991 Consent Order, which were approved by the Court on August 11, 2003. The Section continues to monitor the district’s compliance with these strengthened transfer obligations and the elimination of its race-based homecoming election practices.

To address the persistence of three virtually all white schools and two other racially identifiable schools in this eight-school district, the Section proposed five student assignment plans to further school desegregation. The district rejected the proposed plans, and the Section filed a motion for further relief on November 29, 2005. The United States argued that the district never desegregated these three white schools and that the pre-Swann desegregation plan implemented by the district falls short of eliminating the vestiges of discrimination to the extent practicable. The district filed an opposition, which is also serving as a motion for unitary status, and the Section filed a reply. For copies of the exhibits to these briefs, please call (202) 514-4092. The court has yet to rule on the Section’s motion for further relief or the district’s motion for unitary status. Discovery regarding the motion for further relief commenced in March 2006 and will close in November 2006. A trial has been set for February 26, 2007.

United States and Coleman v. Midland
Independent School District
Elementary and Secondary EducationEnglish Language LearnersRace

This desegregation case was in active litigation for two years when the school district moved to have the case dismissed in November 1998. Following a review of information provided by the district, a tour of district schools and subsequent rulings by the court, the parties entered into a consent order in November 1999. The agreement set forth a plan for the district to take additional steps to desegregate the school system and to eliminate vestiges of discrimination from the former segregated system.

Under the settlement, the district agreed to: (1) implement a new elementary school assignment plan and convert two historically minority schools into magnet schools; (2) eliminate general tracks in secondary schools while keeping certain advanced and gifted and talented tracks; (3) implement reforms to its bilingual education and English as a Second Language programs; (4) develop an action plan in each secondary school to increase minority participation in extracurricular activities; and (5) implement a mentoring program to identify potential minority candidates for administrative intern and teaching positions. As a result, minority enrollment increased in advanced and gifted classes, the magnet schools enrolled diverse student bodies, and the English Language Learner program was significantly improved. On September 12, 2002, the court declared the district unitary and dismissed the case.

United States, GI Forum and
LULAC v. Texas
English Language LearnersNational Origin

This English Language Learner (“ELL”) case originally arose from a desegregation order entered against the State of Texas and the Texas Education Agency (“TEA”). In 1972, the League of United Latin American Citizens (“LULAC”) and GI Forum were allowed to intervene in the desegregation case as representatives of Mexican Americans in Texas. Most recently, on February 9, 2006, LULAC and GI Forum filed a motion for further relief under the statewide desegregation order and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (“EEOA”). Their motion alleges that Texas and TEA have failed to sufficiently monitor and enforce programs for ELL students in public schools across the state, thereby wrongfully denying those students equal educational opportunities.

In their briefs responding to the motion for further relief, the state defendants claimed immunity from suit under the Eleventh Amendment and argued that the EEOA failed to validly abrogate this immunity. On July 10, 2006, the Section filed a response to these briefs, asserting that the EEOA abrogated states’ Eleventh Amendment immunity because the statute constituted a reasonably tailored legislative response to a long history of unconstitutional discrimination against national origin minorities. In its August 11, 2006 memorandum opinion, the district court agreed with the Section’s analysis and held that the EEOA abrogated the state’s Eleventh Amendment immunity. On October 23, 2006, the court will hold a hearing to address LULAC and GI Forum’s motion for further relief.

United States and Mellette v. Jones (The Citadel) Higher EducationSex

This case involved a challenge to the males-only admissions policy of The Citadel, a public military-style college in South Carolina. The Section intervened as a plaintiff in the lawsuit originally brought by Shannon Faulkner, for whom Nancy Mellette was later substituted. In June 1996, in a case brought by the Section, the Supreme Court invalidated the males-only admissions policy of the Virginia Military Institute, a similar public military-style college in Virginia. Following the Supreme Court's decision, the Board of Visitors of The Citadel voted to admit women to its Corps of Cadets, and, in August 1996, four women joined the entering class of students. When allegations surfaced in December 1996 that two of the women had been harassed and physically abused, the United States initiated an investigation into The Citadel's assimilation efforts. This investigation was separate and apart from the contemporaneous criminal investigation initiated by federal and state law enforcement authorities.

Subsequently the court required the citadel to submit a revised plan for the assimilation of women. This led to a consent order that, among other things, required The Citadel to: hire a full-time Assistant Commandant to coordinate the assimilation of women into the Corps of Cadets, a full-time Dean of Women and a full-time recruiter to coordinate female recruitment efforts; institute regular, mandatory sexual harassment-prevention training of all students and staff; undertake specific efforts to recruit women; develop formal assessment tools to evaluate assimilation; hire and station eight additional adult officers in each of the barracks to increase supervision; establish a female assimilation study group to evaluate assimilation efforts and make reports to the president of the college; promptly complete all facilities modifications to accommodate women in all barracks; revise school publications to eliminate sex-restrictive language; and establish informal complaint reporting mechanisms, including the establishment of a college Ombudsman to serve as a confidential recipient of complaints of harassment or abuse. On March 28, 2002, the court entered an agreed order of dismissal to which the parents had agreed, thereby dismissing the case.

United States and Meyers v. San Juan
County School District
Elementary and Secondary EducationRace

The Section filed a complaint alleging that defendants engaged in race discrimination by failing to provide equal educational opportunities for the American Indian students residing in Navajo Mountain. Specifically, the district failed to provide a secondary school located reasonably near their place of residence, as is done for all other students residing in the district. Prior to the filing of this lawsuit, American Indian students who lived in the Navajo Mountain community attended boarding schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs 90 miles away from home. The nearest district high school was 171 miles away from the Navajo Mountain area. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. One year later, the parties entered into a settlement agreement, and the new Navajo Mountain High School opened for classes in 1998.

United States and Yonkers Branch of the NAACP v.
Yonkers Board of Education
Elementary and Secondary EducationNational OriginRaceEnglish Language Learners

This case was brought by the Section in 1980 as both an education and housing desegregation case against the City of Yonkers, the Yonkers Board of Education (YBOE), and the Yonkers Community Development agency. The Yonkers Branch of the NAACP (NAACP) intervened as plaintiffs in 1981, and the case was certified as a class action on behalf of all parents of minority (black and Hispanic) children attending the Yonkers Public Schools (YPS) and all minority residents of Yonkers currently residing in, or eligible to reside in, publicly assisted housing. In 1985, the district court found that the defendants had intentionally segregated the City's public schools and housing over a forty-year period. The court order designed to desegregate the schools became known as the Educational Improvement Plan I (EIP I). EIP I, which primarily involved a magnet school program, desegregated the district with respect to student and faculty assignment.

In September 1987, the YBOE filed a cross-claim against the State of New York, alleging that the State also was liable for the prior segregation in housing and education and that there were continuing vestiges of the prior school segregation that were not being addressed by EIP I. In 1993, the district court found that vestiges of segregation existed in the YPS but that precedent from the Second Circuit precluded the court from holding the State liable as a defendant. In 1996, a panel of the Second Circuit distinguished this precedent and ruled that the State could be held liable for the prior segregation. In 1996, the City filed a third-party cross-claim against the State to obtain state contributions to the costs of implementing the school desegregation orders. In 1997, the district court held that the same vestiges identified in 1993 still existed in 1997, and it ordered the State and City to fund a remedial plan known as EIP II. These defendants appealed.

In June 1999, a panel of the Second Circuit initially reversed the district court's 1993 and 1997 vestiges findings and remanded the case to end the action. In a November 1999 decision, the panel withdrew the June 1999 decision, but maintained its reversal of the vestiges findings and remanded the case to the district court to determine if any other vestiges existed. In November 2000, the district court found that five vestiges of segregation existed in YPS as of 1997: (1) disproportionate academic tracking of minority students into the least demanding classes; (2) disproportionately high discipline of minority students; (3) disproportionately high referrals of minorities to special education; (4) inadequate pupil personnel services; and (5) inadequate services for limited-English-proficient students. The court directed the court-appointed monitor to determine whether evidence since 1997 showed that these five vestiges still existed, and it urged the parties to settle the case.

The Section and the other parties were actively involved in negotiations until they reached a settlement of the case in January 2002. In March 2002, the court conducted a fairness hearing and approved the settlement. The settlement dismissed the education portion of the case with prejudice while retaining court jurisdiction to enforce the settlement's terms. In the settlement, the parties did not agree that the YPS was entitled to a court declaration of unitary status, but rather that the YPS was unitary with respect to the six Green factors and that disputed issues regarding vestiges were resolved by the educational programs and funding provided under the settlement. The settlement required the State to provide $300 million over a five-year period to fund over forty remedial educational programs. The settlement ended on its own terms on June 30, 2006, effectively ending the case.

Westfield High School L.I.F.E. Club v. Westfield Public Schools Elementary and Secondary EducationReligion

On January 13, 2003, the Westfield High School L.I.F.E. Club and some of its student members filed a complaint and motion for preliminary injunction, alleging that the Westfield Public Schools and officials discriminated against their religious beliefs by refusing to allow them to distribute pamphlets containing a religious message, even though defendants permitted the distribution of secular pamphlets by these same students the year before. The plaintiffs alleged that this violated their rights to freedom of speech under the First Amendment, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and their rights to equal protection under the laws pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment.

The United States filed a motion to participate as amicus curiae in this matter, as the United States is charged with enforcement of Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which authorizes the Attorney General to seek relief if a school deprives students of the equal protections of the laws. The Court granted the United States' motion on February 26, 2003.

The United States filed a brief in support of plaintiffs' preliminary injunction. The United States argued that the school's restrictions on plaintiffs' speech violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments proscribing government regulations of speech that discriminate against a particular point of view – here a religious viewpoint.

On March 17, 2003, the Court granted the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction, enjoining defendants from prohibiting the students and the L.I.F.E. Club from distributing literature to fellow students, during non-instructional time, based on the content of the literature.

On June 16, 2003, the Court entered a Consent Decree in which the district agreed to use a revised Free Speech Policy and not to impose any prior restraints upon the plaintiffs to distribute literature unless the distribution failed to comply with the policy.

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Page last updated January 9, 2007

Updated August 6, 2015

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