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Court Lets Cincinnati Schools Transfer Teachers for Racial Balance

October 5, 1992

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court today let Cincinnati public school officials continue using a teacher-transfer policy aimed at maintaining a racial balance among each school’s faculty.

The court, without comment, rejected arguments by eight teachers - six blacks and two whites - and their union that the policy is unlawfully discriminatory.

Since 1974, the Cincinnati Board of Education has taken race into account in assigning teachers to schools within the city school district.

The policy, adopted voluntarily, stated that the percentage of black teachers in any school should not be 5 percent higher or lower than the percentage of black teachers throughout the district.

The policy restricted all teachers’ ability to transfer voluntarily from one school to another if such moves would affect the racial balance in the affected schools. It also required some teachers to transfer to promote racial balance.

A 1984 federal court consent decree issued to settle a decade-old desegregation lawsuit made the teacher-transfer policy mandatory. The consent decree was in effect until last February.

The eight teachers and the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers sued the board of education in 1990, but a federal judge and the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the transfer policy.

The appeals court ruled last March that the teachers ″have failed to demonstrate how their interest in selecting the schools to which they are assigned outweighs the board’s interest in fostering an integrated, pluralistic school system.″

In the appeal acted on today, lawyers for the teachers and their union said the lower courts did not use the ″strict scrutiny″ generally required when racial bias is alleged.

The appeal said Cincinnati school officials should not be able to impose a ″racial quota″ without evidence that one is needed to remedy past discrimination.

Lawyers for the city’s board of education urged the court to reject the teachers’ appeal.

The board’s lawyers noted that, under a 1991 collective bargaining agreement, a teacher’s transfer request cannot be denied for more than two consecutive school years and that the maximum racial-balance variance allowed has been increased from 5 percent to 10 percent.

The six black teachers who joined in filing the 1990 suit are Martha Retic, Marilyn Rosser, Rosa Montgomery, Thirileen King, Bonita White and Clarice Cummings.

The two white teachers who participated in the suit are Bea Jacobson and Linda Young.

The case is Jacobson vs. Cincinnati Board of Education, 91-2056.

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