Federal judge declares Galveston schools finally desegregated

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau May 5, 2009, 4:37am

GALVESTON – A federal judge has declared a local school district desegregated, closing a civil rights lawsuit that has been heard since 1959.

Judge Sim Lake ruled on May 1 that the Galveston Independent School District is sufficient enough in areas such as student and teacher assignments, extracurricular activities, and allocation of resources to achieve unitary status.

"GISD's long, almost 50-year, history of compliance with the court's orders to desegregate demonstrates that GISD has accepted the principal of racial equality and will not revert back to a dual school system," Lake states in his ruling.

GISD was one of a handful of school districts in Texas compelled by the federal government to desegregate.

The district had implemented a desegregation plan in 1969, ordering all students to attend schools closest to where they lived. Despite the effort, the courts ruled since then that GISD was not fully integrated.

In 1978, the district implemented a voluntary majority to minority transfer policy to its elementary campuses.

GISD almost achieved unitary status at the beginning of the year when Judge Lake postponed the ruling for several months so Galveston attorney Anthony P. Griffin, who represented the sole plaintiff in the case, can rebuild files that were damaged during Hurricane Ike.

The district submitted required material for its desegregation to U.S. District Court in June last year.

Lake consistently emphasized that GISD must be declared desegregated by the end of the current school year.

The student body is 40 percent Hispanic, 30 percent African American and 30 percent Anglo as of the 2007-2008 school year, reports the GISD Web site.

GISD superintendent Lynne Cleveland told The Galveston County Daily News in its May 2 edition that she was "thrilled for the district" in response to the ruling.

"This has been a great part of the healing process for the community," said Cleveland.

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