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Court Grants RISD Unitary Status – Federal Desegregation Order Lifted
Federal district judge Reed O'Connor declared July 23 that Richardson ISD has attained unitary status, and dismissed a 43 year old federal desegregation order.

The federal desegregation order under which RISD has operated since 1970 imposes federal judicial supervision on various district operations. School districts around the state and country have operated under civil rights-era desegregation orders. Over the years, many of those districts have successfully sought unitary status which is the process through which a district asks the court to dismiss the desegregation litigation. Unitary status is a desegregation-era legal term that means a school district operates using a single system for all students, rather than operating dual, racially-based systems which were common in many school districts in the 1960s. The RISD Board of Trustees authorized the district to begin the process of seeking unitary status in 2009.

"We are very pleased with this ruling," said RISD Superintendent Kay Waggoner. "Richardson ISD is committed to serving all students, and we embrace the rich diversity in our schools and community. This ruling is the federal court's acknowledgement of our commitment, and will return local control to our district. We have no immediate plans to alter how we operate, but this ruling will enhance our future flexibility and efficiency."

To obtain unitary status, a school district must establish that it has eliminated the vestiges of past discrimination and that is has complied in good faith with the court's orders. Judge O'Connor ruled in August of 2011 that RISD had attained unitary status in the areas of facilities, transportation, extra-curricular activities and special education.

Judge O'Connor held an evidentiary hearing in June of 2012 to consider the remaining areas of the order and issued a partial ruling in July of 2012. That ruling held that RISD had complied in good faith with the original order of 1970, and that RISD had attained unitary status in the areas of faculty and staff recruiting and hiring, and student assignment at the junior high and high school level. The judge indicated he needed additional information before ruling on the issues of elementary student assignment and faculty assignment. In April of 2013, the court held a hearing to receive supplemental evidence on the two remaining issues.

In his final ruling on July 23, Judge O'Connor found that RISD has attained unitary status in the remaining areas of student assignment at the elementary level, and faculty and staff assignment.

As part of RISD's compliance with the desegregation order, Hamilton Park Pacesetter Magnet is a school that has operated differently from other RISD schools in terms of racial composition, class sizes and programs. RISD has no current plans to change how the district or Hamilton Park Pacesetter Magnet operates.
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