November 8, 2005

Judge OKs end to San Francisco desegregation plan

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A U.S. court ruled on Tuesday
against extending a 22-year-old court decree forcing the racial
integration of San Francisco's public schools, saying they have
become resegregated after the decree had been modified.

In his ruling, Judge William Alsup of the U.S. District
Court for Northern California noted the decree, which has
regulated school assignments for children in San Francisco
since 1983, had initially succeeded in integrating city

However, a formula in the decree used to achieve racial
balance became the focus of a lawsuit by families of several
schoolchildren of Chinese descent, who claimed they were not
able to attend their neighborhood schools.

A 1999 settlement modified the decree to allow a plan that
eliminated race as a factor in assigning students to schools.
An amended settlement in 2001 set a termination date of
December 31, 2005 for the consent decree.

By replacing the decree's formula for balancing racial
groups with a "diversity index" that looks at several factors
but not race for school assignments, San Francisco's public
schools have in recent years "become increasingly
resegregated," Alsup wrote.

"The perpetuation of resegregation allowed, if not caused,
by the decree itself would be contrary to the public interest,"
he wrote, adding that the "decree has transformed itself into
court-ordered resegregation."

The decree should expire at the end of the year, according
to Alsup, noting future decisions about school assignments
would be "better left in the hands of education professionals
subject to the rough and tumble of local politics and

"After twenty-two years of judicial supervision and
substantial compliance by the school district, it is entirely
appropriate to return full control of the district to the
school board and superintendent," he added.

"San Francisco, it can be safely added, is a beacon for
human rights," Alsup noted. "It would be one of the last places
in America where racist school policies would be expected."