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United States v. Bakersfield City School District and School

January 11, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Oliver W. Wanger United States District Judge



Before the Court for decision is a joint motion filed by all parties to (1) declare that a "unitary school system" now exists in Defendant Bakersfield City School District ("District"); (2) terminate the Consent Decree entered in this case on January 25, 1984 ("Consent Decree" or "Decree") and thereafter modified from time to time; and (3) dismiss this case. The matter came on for hearing on January 10, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. in Courtroom 3 (OWW). No objections have been received by the Court.


In the early 1970s, the Office of Civil Rights of what was then the U.S. Department of Health Education and Welfare, subsequently the Department of Education ("DOE"), conducted an investigation of civil rights violations allegedly perpetrated by Defendant Bakersfield City School District ("District"). At issue were the District's practices in the areas of bilingual education, the treatment of educable mentally handicapped students, and student assignment. The DOE investigation ultimately led to a compliance proceeding before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). On January 12, 1978, the ALJ found the District in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in all three areas of DOE concern. The District was deemed ineligible for federal financial assistance until it made corrections.

While the District was pursuing appellate remedies, significant changes occurred within the District. A new governing board was elected, a new superintended was hired, administrators were changed, new legal counsel was appointed, and substantial changes in state law resulted in changes to the District's programs in the areas of concern. The District was subsequently able to resolve its differences with DOE on two of the issues of concern: bilingual education and its programs for educable mentally handicapped students.

However, the parties were unable to reach full agreement on the issue of student assignment. Although some progress had been made in the District to encourage greater racial and ethnic diversity, there remained a handful of schools whose enrollment was almost entirely minority, and a few schools whose enrollment was largely white, in a district then roughly balanced between minority and white. DOE wanted further changes to address these issues, but the District was unable to accommodate these requests. DOE agreed not to terminate federal financial assistance as a result of the student assignment issues, but indicated the matter might be forwarded to the Department of Justice ("DOJ") for further review.

After continued negotiations failed, the matter was referred to DOJ. On November 29, 1982, DOJ requested information about what progress had been made in implementing integration measures voluntarily adopted by the District. Information was provided to DOJ, and extended negotiations between DOJ and the District ensued. These negotiations culminated in the filing on January 25, 1984 of this action and the immediate entry of a consent decree.

The Complaint alleged that some elementary schools continued to have student enrollment levels which remained substantially all-minority as a result of the District's failure to take adequate corrective steps, although educationally sound and administratively feasible alternative methods of student assignment were available, including plans already considered by the District. The Decree focused directly on student assignment and on programs deemed necessary to reduce segregation. It mandated that the District:

* continue to maintain an administrative office whose mission was to assist in developing and implementing integration programs;

* continue and if possible expand its controlled open enrollment program ("COE") to encourage students at schools with predominantly white enrollments to attend predominantly minority schools, and vice versa, with particular emphasis on encouraging students at "racially imbalanced schools" (defined in the Decree as Fremont, McKinley, Mt. Vernon and Owens elementary schools) to attend Nichols or Eissler schools, both then predominantly white;

* continue to recognize "reduction of racial isolation" as a grounds for permitting student transfers on a year by year basis under the District's interschool transfer policy;

* continue its short term mini magnet programs whereby students from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds came together for programs designed to provide concentrated, short term enrichment experiences, enhance academic achievement and increase social awareness and racial tolerance; each of the then 25 District schools to continue to offer one or more such programs every year, at least until full term magnet programs were operational;

* establish full term magnet programs at the Fremont and Mt. Vernon schools, two of the "racially imbalanced schools" in the next school year, 1984-85, to attract white students to attend those almost entirely all-minority schools; and establish full term magnet programs at the other two ...

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