After Unitary Status: Examining Voluntary Integration Strategies for Southern School Districts

BY Danielle Holley-Walker

This Article provides empirical data on student assignment plans that are currently being used by Southern school districts that have recently attained unitary status. As the facts of Parents Involved in Community Schools demonstrate, Southern school districts will likely continue to be at the forefront of the struggle over voluntary integration efforts. Many Southern school districts are being released from desegregation orders that allowed the district to use race conscious remedies to address previous de jure racial segregation. Without those court orders, the school district is faced with a choice about whether to continue to make racial integration a priority and what legally permissible strategies the school district may employ. The goal of this Article to provide a snapshot of how many Southern school districts are facing this dilemma and what choices the school districts are making.

This Article presents an empirical study that identifies school districts in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina that have attained unitary status since 2004. Part I then goes on to identify the important commonalities with respect to these cases, including examining the role of the United States Department of Justice in assisting school districts in unitary status proceedings.

This Article builds on these initial findings by providing a study of the post-unitary status student assignment plans adopted by the Southern school districts. This Article then analyzes the trends in post-unitary status student assignment plans: the prevalence of small districts with only one school at each grade level, the continued use of race conscious student assignment plans by a few districts, the emergence of socioeconomic status as a factor in student assignment, and the strategic drawing of attendance zones.

This Article also presents an overview of strategies to encourage voluntary racial integration in Southern school districts. These strategies are examined from several different viewpoints: strategies that may be employed by school districts that seek to adopt voluntary integration plans, the need for additional desegregation litigation under state constitutions, and the role of the federal government in promoting the goal of racial integration in public schools.

DOWNLOAD PDF | 88 N.C. L. Rev. 877 (2010)

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