Desegregation Case Proposed Settlement Materials

Notice Of Proposed Settlement Of Class Action, Rights Of Class Members, And Fairness Hearing To Consider The Proposed Settlement

TO: All African-American or black public-school-age children of Pulaski County, Arkansas, and their parents or guardians; and

All certified and non-certified staff employees of the Little Rock School District, Pulaski County Special School District No. 1, and North Little Rock School District

The Background. A class action lawsuit is pending in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas: Little Rock School District, et al. v. Pulaski County Special School District, No. 4:82-cv-866 DPM. This case is sometimes called the Little Rock or Pulaski County desegregation case. The parties to this lawsuit include a group of individuals known as the Joshua Intervenors.  The Court has designated these Intervenors to represent the Joshua Class – “all current, past and future LRSD, PCSSD and NLRSD black students, their parents and next friends.” The other parties to the case are the Little Rock School District, the Pulaski County Special School District, the North Little Rock School District, a group of certified and non-certified staff organizations and individuals known as the Knight Intervenors, and the State of Arkansas by the Arkansas Department of Education.  The class action does not involve payment of any money to individuals. It deals only with how schools in Pulaski County, Arkansas, are operated.  It is only for injunctive relief.
 
Since 1990 a document called the 1989 Settlement Agreement has required certain actions by the State and the three Districts including two programs to affect the racial balance of students in schools in Pulaski County.  One program, the Majority to Minority (or M to M) transfer program, allowed some students to attend a school outside of the district in which they live. A second program allowed students to attend one of six stipulation Magnet schools in the LRSD.  The six stipulation Magnet schools are Booker Elementary, Carver Elementary, Gibbs Elementary, Williams Elementary, Horace Mann Middle School, and Parkview High School. Both programs provide free transportation to students.  The 1989 Settlement Agreement also requires the State to take other actions, some in support of desegregation of the schools.  The State’s total payments to the three Districts are currently around $67 million each year.

The ADE has asked the Court to immediately release it from all obligations under the 1989 Settlement Agreement. The Joshua Intervenors and the Districts have argued to the Court that the ADE should not be released from its obligations under the 1989 Settlement Agreement.

The Proposed Settlement. In November 2013, the parties joined a new Proposed Settlement Agreement to release the State from its obligations under the 1989 Settlement Agreement. Individual members of the class will not be (and have never been) awarded any money through the new Proposed Settlement Agreement. The key terms of this Proposed Settlement Agreement are:

• The State will continue to make desegregation payments to the Districts for four more years and no longer;
• The M to M program will not accept new applications this year, and applications for students living in NLRSD or PCSSD to transfer to the six stipulation Magnet schools in LRSD will no longer be accepted;
• Students currently enrolled in the M to M program can continue in this program as long as their parent or guardian chooses (including through high school graduation);
• Students living in NLRSD or PCSSD now enrolled in one of the six stipulation Magnet schools in the LRSD can continue in their school as long as their parent or guardian chooses (including through the highest grade in the school);
• After three years the Districts will not be required to provide free transportation to M to M or stipulation Magnet students who cross District lines, but the Districts may do so if they choose to; and
• All of the State’s obligations in this case end once the last payment is made to the Districts under the Proposed Settlement Agreement.
The six stipulation Magnet schools will continue to exist. The Proposed Settlement Agreement changes the rules for who can enroll in these schools and the availability of transportation.

The PCSSD will remain under Court supervision for a time and continue to pursue unitary status. The possible creation of a Jacksonville/North Pulaski area school district consistent with state law is authorized.  The State will oppose the creation of any other school district from PCSSD’s territory until PCSSD is declared fully unitary and released from Court supervision.

The Proposed Settlement Agreement also provides for some attorney’s fees: $250,000 each to LRSD, NLRSD, and PCSSD; $500,000 to the Joshua Intervenors; and $75,000 to the Knight Intervenors.  If there is any objection to the attorney’s fees for the Intervenors, then the Court will decide what fee is reasonable.

A longer summary of the Proposed Settlement Agreement can be found here.

Fairness Hearing and Objections. The Proposed Settlement Agreement will not be final until the United States District Court approves it. The Court has set a Fairness Hearing to hear evidence and objections of class members about the Proposed Settlement Agreement at 9:30 a.m., on January 13 and 14, 2014, at the Richard Sheppard Arnold United States Courthouse, Court Room 1-A, 500 West Capitol Avenue, Little Rock, Arkansas.  Members of the Joshua Class may participate in the Fairness Hearing through counsel or personally.  Any objections that members of the class have to Proposed Settlement Agreement must be submitted in writing to the Court by December 23, 2013. If you want to participate in the Fairness Hearing you must say so in your written Objection. Objections not received by December 23, 2013, may not be considered.  Failure to object in writing by the deadline may mean you cannot participate in the Fairness Hearing.  Submit objections to this address:

James W. McCormack, Clerk of Court
United States District Court
Eastern District of Arkansas
Richard Sheppard Arnold United States Courthouse
600 West Capitol Avenue, Room A149
Little Rock, AR 72201

Attn: Desegregation Case – Proposed Settlement Agreement

No Opt Outs. Members of the Joshua Class cannot opt out of the class. This means that all members of the class will be bound by the Proposed Settlement Agreement if it is approved by the Court.  They will also be bound by any judgment issued by the Court.

Questions. Members of the Joshua Class who have questions concerning the claims asserted in this litigation, the Proposed Settlement Agreement, or the Fairness Hearing, should direct their questions in writing to counsel for the Joshua Intervenors:  John W. Walker, 1723 Broadway, Little Rock, AR 72206-1220, johnwalkeratty@aol.com

Members of the Knight Intervenors who have questions concerning the claims asserted in this litigation, the Proposed Settlement Agreement, or the Fairness Hearing, should direct their questions in writing to counsel for the Knight Intervenors:  Mark Burnette or Clayton Blackstock, Mitchell Blackstock Law Firm, 1010 West Third Street,  Little Rock, AR 72201, mburnette@mitchellblackstock.com or cblackstock@mitchellblackstock.com

Please do not call or write the Court, or the Clerk of the Court, for information or advice.

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