Desegregation order dismissed against Shelby County Schools dismissed - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Desegregation order dismissed against Shelby County Schools dismissed

By Nick Kenney - bio | email | Follow us on Twitter

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A court battle involving the Shelby County School system that began decades ago has ended.  Thursday, an appellate court granted the school system "unitary status", dismissing a decades old desegregation order against the district.

The dismissal means the school system will no longer be monitored by the U.S. Justice Department for desegregation.

Valerie Speakman, a lawyer for Shelby County Schools, was emotional about the court battle's end.

"For me to play a part now, at the conclusion of the process, means a great deal to me," she said.

For the past 45 years, the Shelby County School System's obligation to desegregate has been monitored by the United States Justice Department.

In 2007, the three parties involved in the original lawsuit asked a judge to release the school system from that monitoring.  The judge refused, and school system appealed.

Now that an appeals court has granted the system unitary status, it is free from Justice Department oversight, and must operate without discrimination.

"Things will not be changing at Shelby County Schools, because we have been operating, we believe, as a unitary school system for many, many, many years," school board president David Pickler said.

Finally after 45 years, the county school system is on its own.

"I'm speaking on behalf of the board and the staff to make sure that we have excellent boundaries for our schools that meet the needs of our students," Superintendent Bobby Webb said.

School officials say they plan to keep it that way.

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