Desegregation order stands for Tyler ISD

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - By Layron Livingston - bio | email
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TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Nearly 40 years after schools in Texas were forced to diversify a judge decides a desegregation order is no longer needed. But, there are some exceptions to District Judge Michael Schneider's order.

Most of the schools not removed from the statewide desegregation order are in East Texas. There are nine school districts in all.

Nacogdoches is the largest of the districts that must still follow the guidelines laid out in the 1970 order. The district issued a statement following the judge's decision: "NISD has been desegregated and focused on fostering diversity in our schools for decades. We wholly endorse and support school integration and support the pursuit of legal efforts to allow for full integration when necessary."

Charlotte Strokes saw first hand the fight for integration in Nacogdoches in the shadow of her father an NCAAP leader. While she admits there has been progress, there is still much to be done.

"Too many of our minority children are not graduating," said Stokes. "Too many are dropping out, even in our integrated society. We should not have that many children dropping out."

In Judge Scheinder's ruling, he admits that he does not know if the districts that have been allowed to operate outside of the 1970 order are fully desegregated.

One of East Texas' largest school districts, Tyler ISD, is expected to file its desegregation compliance report later this month. TISD is still bound by its own, separate, and older desegregation order.

Tyler attorney John Hardy says the eastern district's ruling pretty much lifts requirements on school district throughout the state.

"The racial mix in Texas school districts is very different from what it was in these orders to some extent have to evolve to deal with that," he explained. "This does not grant unitary status to all these districts. It simply says, 'We're not enforcing this order against you.'"

Tyler ISD has to comply with its own, separately filed federal desegregation order. The late federal judge William Justice signed TISD's original order in 1970. Basically, it makes sure everything the district does is not racially motivated.

Attorney John Hardy represents the district. He says the order effects everything.

"Classrooms, how many students are distributed through classes...teachers, how faculty and staff are distributed by race...transportation, how bus routes are drawn...attendance zones, which students living where go to which school," said Hardy.

The district files a status report with the Department of Justice twice a year. But, Hardy says TISD could petition to have its order lifted. We are told that would require action from the school board.

We tried to get the district's position on the matter. Our request for an on-camera interview was declined and we were told the district has not had an opportunity to discuss the issue.

Attorney's representing TISD say the district's desegregation compliance reports are filed twice a year in April and in October. We also asked the district if it felt its order was still necessary. We were told, again, there has not been enough time to discuss it.

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