LR School District declared 'unitary' 

Federal judge frees district from deseg supervision.

Federal Judge Bill Wilson ended the Little Rock School District's long entanglement with desegregation litigation Friday with a 49-page order that declared the district unitary. The district is now free to operate how it sees fit, without court supervision and without the involvement of attorney John Walker and the Joshua Intervenors, the class of black students he's represented for decades. Little Rock School Board members had disagreed among themselves whether the district should be declared unitary, and even asked Wilson to delay the January hearing that led to today's ruling -- a request he denied.

The sole remaining issue in the long-running deseg suit was whether the district had "deeply embedded" a system for evaluating various programs' effect on the achievement of black students. Wilson's ruling is a victory for Superintendent Roy Brooks, who tried to fire the district employee in charge of the evaluation system, Karen DeJarnette, who stated publicly -- and testified in court -- that the district hadn't met the "deeply embedded" standard.

Judge Wilson’s ruling declaring the Little Rock School District unitary in all aspects of the desegregation lawsuit was unambiguous — “This means that LRSD is no longer under any supervision and monitoring obligations from me, ODM, or Joshua. LRSD’s board can now operate the district as it sees fit” — but the full extent of the fallout remains to be seen. The ruling will have political effects on the Little Rock School Board and within the LRSD administration, and it could also open the door for the state to try to put an end to the millions of dollars it provides annually to help fund the district’s magnet schools and minority-to-majority student transfers.

LRSD’s attorney, Chris Heller, said the state’s agreement with Pulaski County’s three school districts restricts it from seeking any change in the funding amounts before 2008, but Jacksonville legislator Will Bond filed a bill this afternoon that would start the process of ending the funding within seven years. The state’s total yearly deseg obligation is $58 million, according to Bond’s bill. Little Rock’s share is around $27 million.

In his ruling, Wilson threw out the requirement that had been at the core of the disagreement within the LRSD administration: that the district “deeply embed” a system of assessing academic programs. The standard had been criticized in an appeals court ruling issued last summer as being too vague and subjective, and Wilson wrote in today’s ruling that upon “mature reflection,” he agreed. The standard should have been “good faith,” he said. But he went on to say that in any event, based on the testimony presented in the January hearings, it would have been “hard” to rule that the district hadn’t met the “deeply embedded” standard.

Wilson also handed a victory to Superintendent Roy Brooks, who had clashed with Karen DeJarnette, the head of the department that oversees the district’s program evaluations. DeJarnette testified that the district fell short of the “deeply embedded” standard, and that Brooks and other district officials had tried to keep information about those shortcomings from the court. Wilson said he found DeJarnette’s testimony to lack objectivity, and that the shortcomings she cited weren’t in aspects of the evaluation system that were required by the court.

Brooks’ comment on that aspect of the ruling: “I think this is victory for this community, for these kids — that we are honorable people, and I have always been a person that valued my integrity and my honor.”

Both Brooks and board member Baker Kurrus said they hoped all sides could work together going forward.

“I don’t feel any kind of relief or joy or anything,” Kurrus said. “The hard work remains — it always has. Getting in or getting out of court really doesn’t change the fact that we have students with great need.”

Board President Katherine Mitchell wasn’t so hopeful, and said she didn’t agree with Wilson’s ruling.
”It was quite obvious in the court proceedings that evidence of embedding the programs did not exist in the manner that it should, in my opinion, that would release the district from the court,” she said. “But I’m not the judge. … However, the judge changed his focus from deeply embedded to showing good faith. In his opinion the district is showing good faith.”


Comments (4)

Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Thursday's open line and the daily video

    Here's the open line and the daily video.
    • Oct 27, 2016
  • UPDATE: Ted Suhl gets seven years, $200,000 fine for bribery

    Ted Suhl was sentenced this morning by federal Judge Billy Roy Wilson on four counts of attempting to bribe a state official to help his mental health business supported by Medicaid money. He received 84 months and a $200,000 fine and is to report to prison in early January. He will appeal.
    • Oct 27, 2016
  • Question raised on Dallas Cowboy gift to NLR cops

    Blogger Russ Racop raises an interesting question, as he sometimes does, about Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' gift of free tickets for North Little Rock cops to attend a Dallas Cowboy football game.
    • Oct 27, 2016
  • More »

More by Jennifer Barnett Reed

  • Learning to love North Little Rock in Park Hill

    Any description of North Little Rock's Park Hill neighborhood will eventually, inevitably, include a comparison to Hillcrest, its better-known cousin south of the river.
    • Dec 28, 2011
  • A reason to splash

    Fun rain gear and more at InJoy.
    • Mar 12, 2009
  • Pick up some spice

    And we ain’t talking about tarragon.
    • Feb 26, 2009
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Kanis development decried

    Fletcher Hollow wrong place for density, neighbors tell LR planners.
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • Eligible voters removed from rolls

    Arkansas Times reporters contacted election officials around the state to see how they had handled flawed felon data from the secretary of state. Responses varied dramatically.
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • Real Republicans don't do pre-K

    Also, drifting away from trump, Hudson's downfall at ASU and more.
    • Aug 11, 2016

Most Shared

  • Issue 3: blank check

    Who could object to a constitutional amendment "concerning job creation, job expansion and economic development," which is the condensed title for Issue 3 for Arkansas voters on Nov. 8?
  • Little Rock police kill man downtown

    Little Rock police responding to a disturbance call near Eighth and Sherman Streets about 12:40 a.m. killed a man with a long gun, Police Chief Kenton Buckner said in an early morning meeting with reporters.
  • From the mind of Sol LeWitt: Crystal Bridges 'Loopy Doopy': A correction

    Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is installing Sol Lewitt's 70-foot eye-crosser "Wall Drawing 880: Loopy Doopy," waves of complementary orange and green, on the outside of the Twentieth Century Gallery bridge. You can glimpse painters working on it from Eleven, the museum's restaurant, museum spokeswoman Beth Bobbitt said
  • Ted Suhl loses another bid for new trial; faces stiff sentencing recommendation

    Ted Suhl, the former operator of residential and out-patient mental health services, has lost a second bid to get a new trial on his conviction for paying bribes to influence state Human Services Department policies. Set for sentencing Thursday, Suhl faces a government request for a sentence up to almost 20 years. He argues for no more than 33 months.
  • Football and foster kids

    It took a football stadium to lay bare Republican budget hypocrisy in Arkansas.

Latest in Arkansas Reporter

  • Trump country

    Even in deep red Arkansas, Trump could damage some down-ballot Republicans — but will boost others.
    • Oct 27, 2016
  • Youth movement

    Irvin Camacho, 24, hopes to be the first Latino elected to the Arkansas legislature.
    • Oct 20, 2016
  • Democrats' last stand in NE Arkansas

    Nate Looney vs. Rep. Brandt Smith for District 58.
    • Sep 29, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Jodi Morris's lifelong ties to the National Park Service

Jodi Morris's lifelong ties to the National Park Service

"History is always happening" at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site

Event Calendar

« »


2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments


© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation