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Appeals Court Upholds Little Rock Order

June 27, 2006

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ A federal appeals court on Monday upheld a decision keeping the Little Rock School District under federal desegregation monitoring, which has been in effect since 1965.

A three-member panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at St. Louis agreed with a 2004 ruling by U.S. District William R. Wilson in the long-running desegregation case involving the Little Rock district, the North Little Rock District and the Pulaski County Special School District.

Wilson had ruled that the Little Rock district did not successfully evaluate its academic programs for how well they helped black students. Otherwise, the district would have been released from the remaining desegregation monitoring it has faced since 1965.

The district had been released in 2002 from all aspects of its monitoring except those relating to program evaluations.

In his opinion, Wilson said the district would remain under court order through the 2005-06 school year. Wilson said the district must hire outside experts and design a program assessment process.

While upholding Wilson’s decision, the appeals court also signaled its willingness to review the case again if the federal monitoring is not lifted in October.

The court said it was concerned about the ``ever-heightened requirements that the district is being asked to satisfy.″

Chris Heller, a lawyer for the Little Rock district, called the ruling ``a great disappointment.″ But he also said he was encouraged by the court’s willingness to look at the case again if federal monitoring remains in place after this year.

``Perhaps part of the rationale was that the case should be almost over anyway,″ Heller said of the ruling.

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