- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 14, 2002

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. A federal judge relaxed court supervision of the Little Rock School District yesterday, resolving a lawsuit that had its roots in the 1957 showdown over the integration of Central High School.
The current plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in 1982, accusing the state's largest school system of discriminating against minorities.
"The time has arrived for substantial control of LRSD to be returned to the hands of the citizens of this community," U.S. District Judge William Wilson wrote.
Judge Wilson said he will still monitor district programs aimed at improving the academic achievements of black students, saying the district hadn't proven that it was regularly assessing their performance.
Until the district could overcome that burden, he would still keep an eye on it, Judge Wilson said.
"I want to caution the board that it must be careful in how it uses its newly restored wings, just as Icarus would not resist the temptation to fly too close to the sun, causing his waxen wings to melt," Judge Wilson said.
"The board must keep the Constitution in sight at all times in making future decisions regarding the Little Rock school system, otherwise, LRSD will find itself embroiled in another round of costly litigation with the possibility of still more court supervision and monitoring," he wrote.
Interveners said the district has failed to fully comply with the integration plan and should not be freed from the case.
Superintendent Ken James said the district was relieved.
"It's a very important day for us. It validates the good work that has gone into removing those vestiges of the past. It gets us beyond the stigma of being under court monitoring on an ongoing basis," Mr. James said. "It will allow us to focus our efforts on student achievement."
Civil rights lawyer John Walker of Little Rock, who represents black interveners, said he was not pleased with Judge Wilson's ruling.
"Our position is the schools have become resegregated, with the approval of persons in positions of responsibility," he said. "You cannot have a desegregated school district when black students are treated differently."
Contrary to arguments by Mr. Walker, Judge Wilson determined that the Little Rock district was not obligated to eliminate the academic-achievement gap that has traditionally existed between black and white students in the district and throughout the nation.
Chris Heller, the district's lead attorney in the case, said the school system has no intention of appealing any part of Judge Wilson's order.
"Put that in capital letters," Mr. Heller told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. "There's no reason for us to even think about that."
Sixty-eight percent of the district's 25,442 students last year were black.
The Little Rock School District has been involved in desegregation litigation for more than 45 years. The current lawsuit, filed in 1982, had its roots in a case in 1957 that led to the tumultuous integration of Central High School and all other schools in the district.
President Eisenhower sent federal troops to Little Rock 45 years ago this month to enforce a federal order that the city integrate its schools after Gov. Orval Faubus had used National Guard troops to keep nine black children out of Central High.
This article is based in part on dispatches by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

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