MALDEF Argues Before Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals To Protect Historic Desegregation Provisions in Texas School Districts

Transfer provisions aimed at enforcing desegregation are in danger of being dismissed

December 05, 2007

AUSTIN, TX – Today, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the nation’s leading Latino legal organization, presented its argument on behalf of LULAC and the GI Forum before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to defend the statewide school desegregation decree and ensure that public school desegregation efforts are not impeded. The argument was made by MALDEF Staff Attorney, David Hinojosa.

“The court was very receptive to our argument that because these districts are not harmed by the desegregation order they cannot present legal arguments to the count. We are optimistic that we will prevail,” stated Hinojosa.

This desegregation case dates back to 1970 when the United States filed suit under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fourteenth Amendment against the State of Texas, the Texas Education Agency (TEA), and a group of school districts for maintaining all-black and all-white segregated schools in Texas. Following a trial later that year, the District Court found that the State Defendants had contributed to the continuation of racially segregated schools in Texas, seventeen years following the Brown v. Board decision. Thereafter, the Court issued a desegregation order (known as Order 5281), which included TEA’s obligation to monitor student transfers between districts statewide to ensure that desegregation was not impeded.

An intervention in this long-standing desegregation case was filed in 2004 by the Harrold and Samnorwood Independent School Districts. The school districts claimed that the State had unlawfully withheld their funds after they failed to report student transfers. The districts also argued that the transfer provisions of the statewide desegregation decree applied only to those school districts that were part of the original 1970 lawsuit and that school districts should not be required to report Hispanic student transfers to the state education agency.

Despite having prevailed in court, the districts argued that the transfer provisions should not remain intact and the state consented. MALDEF filed a brief with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that argued: 1) that the matter is moot since the Districts prevailed in the trial court; and 2) that the transfer provisions remain relevant and are aimed at TEA’s past violations. If TEA desires to have those modified or dismissed, then it must properly bring a motion before the District Court, not the Court of Appeals.

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