Long-term compliance with a desegregation plan that is complete by its own design and does not contemplate later judicial reappraisal entitles the school district to a declaration of unitariness. Whether the plan was in fact a complete remedy for the violation requires both an examination of the original violation, and an examination of the actual effects of the plan. Thus, compliance with even a court-approved desegregation plan, by itself and without proof of the executed plan's intention and effect, does not make a district unitary. Of course, while a district is not unitary, the court must maintain supervisory jurisdiction and may require prior approval of various board actions. During this "pre-unitariness" period the board bears a heavy burden of showing that actions that increased or continued the effects of the dual system serve important and legitimate ends.
Appellee parents sought to enjoin the school district (district) from rescinding a proposed voluntary desegregation plan against school racism. As the result of initial litigation, the district operated under a court-ordered desegregation plan, which was modified from time to time. The district sought a declaration that its schools were now unitary, to dissolve the injunction, and to terminate the district court's jurisdiction in the matter. The district court rejected the view based on a number of factors including findings that a school practiced segregation by implementing student attendance zones, optional zones and mobile classroom units. Also, the district court ruled that the district had not given adequate assurances that resegregation would not occur if the court terminated jurisdiction.
Was a desegregation plan been mooted by the the district’s compliance in a case giving a federal court ongoing jurisdiction?
The appellate court held: 1) the appeal from the decision requiring a plan was moot because the district complied with the request; 2) there was no clear error in the factual finding that the pupil assignment policies were non-unitary because the record supported the finding and the district failed to meet its burden that the racially identifiable schools were not the result of past or present discrimination; 3) because of the finding that the district was not unitary, there was no error in retaining supervisory jurisdiction over the public schools; and 4) except for those portions of the interim decree requiring the district to obey the law, which had to be stricken, and other sections that needed clarification, the decree was not objectionable or ambiguous.