Monday, May 13, 2013
Office of Desegregation Monitoring Records
The Office of Desegregation Monitoring (ODM), a federal office created on December 12, 1990, by the Eighth Circuit Court and charged with the duty of monitoring and assisting Pulaski County’s three school districts—Little Rock School District (LRSD), North Little Rock School District (NLRSD), and Pulaski County Special School District (PCSSD)—in meeting their respective desegregation obligations and mandates. ODM was preceded by the Office of Metropolitan Supervisor (1989-1990). However, after the untimely death of Metropolitan Supervisor, Eugene Reville in a car accident on March 17, 1990, the Office of Metropolitan Supervisor was converted into the Office of Desegregation Monitoring.
The Pulaski County School desegregation case was filed on November 30, 1982, when the LRSD, composed mostly of African American students due to “white flight” from the city, sued the NLRSD, the PCSSD (composed mostly of white students), and the State of Arkansas. Represented by the law firm of Heller, Friday, Eldredge & Clark, the LRSD sought to obtain a remedy for the effects of segregation practices, charging that the actions and policies of the other districts had racially segregated it. The suit asked that all three districts consolidate into one countywide district to address the issue. Two intervenors eventually entered the litigation. The Joshua Intervenors, with Lorene Joshua as plaintiff, hired civil rights attorney John Walker to represent African American students with the goal of eliminating racial discrimination and its effects in the LRSD. The Knight Intervenors had Katherine Wright Knight, president of the Classroom Teachers Association, as plaintiff.
The request to consolidate all three school districts into one was ultimately denied, but the districts were required to take steps to end the remnants of racial discrimination in their schools. The final plan involved a series of programs to improve education and attract white students from the suburbs. As a part of the settlement, the state agreed to subsidize the districts’ desegregation efforts over several years.
The case came under the jurisdiction of the United States District Court, Eastern District of Arkansas, which eventually granted unitary status to two of the three districts. Unitary status is obtained when desegregation has occurred to a practical extent. At that point, the district is allowed to manage its affairs without federal court approval. The LRSD was granted unitary status in 2007 and the NLRSD in 2011. Currently, the PCSSD has not obtained complete unitary status.
The collection contains legal documents, including court filings, motions, responses, orders, and exhibits. It also contains correspondence; news clippings; maps; school profiles; monitoring and various other reports concerning school district compliances, operations, and policies. The case has been heard by five federal judges: Henry Woods (1982-1990), Susan Webber Wright (1990-2002), and William R. (Bill) Wilson Jr. (2002-2009), Brian Miller (2009-2011), and D. Price Marshall (2011-present). ODM federal monitors have included: Ann S. Marshall, Judge Andrea Roaf, and Margie Powell.