Saying it still wants to avoid the time and expense of another desegregation trial, the Los Angeles school board voted Thursday to appeal a federal court decision that would allow NAACP attorneys to go back to 1969 to find evidence of racial discrimination in the district.
And if the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refuses to reconsider its Dec. 21 ruling, the board said it will take its case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ever since state's voters agreed to stop mandatory busing in Los Angeles in 1981, the NAACP has been seeking to try the case in federal court. But for nearly four years, the case has bounced back and forth in federal court, as the judges have sought to decide what evidence can be included in the trial.
A split 9th Circuit Court decided that a federal district court trial in Los Angeles could examine the school district's actions from 1969 to 1981, less than what the NAACP attorneys had hoped for but more than the school board wants to accept.
"Our attorneys are not worried about winning the case" if it comes to a federal court trial, said Los Angeles school board President John Greenwood. "Our concern is the time and expense that would be taken away from the education program."
After 1969, the school district was monitored by a state court, which had found it guilty of intentionally segregating students. Because of this close monitoring, school board officials contended Thursday that "it would have been impossible for any deliberate segregative actions to take place during the period" after 1969.
But the board decided in a closed session Thursday to try to get the case narrowed even further.
It was a special 11-member panel of the 9th Circuit Court that voted to place the time limits on a Los Angeles desegregation trial. The school board said Thursday it wanted all 27 members of the appeals court to re-examine the issue and limit the trial to events after 1981, when the state case concluded.
For their part, NAACP attorneys also say they were "disappointed" by the ruling because they wanted to use events prior to 1969 to show a pattern of discrimination in Los Angeles. But they say they do not intend to appeal the ruling and still believe they can prove in district court that the board tried to keep the schools segregated.
"They (school board) had many opportunities to bring about desegregation (after 1969), but they were fighting it all the way in court," said Joseph Duff, local counsel for the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, citing this as an example of school board actions that could be brought up in a federal court trial.
Duff said he doubted that the school board will succeed in its appeal. "I think they are spinning their wheels now. But they have the resources to try it again," he said.
Greenwood would not speculate on the district's prospects for getting the entire appeals court to reconsider its actions, but said he hoped the board could avoid getting immersed in another desegregation fight.
"When I came on the board (in July, 1981), we got very little done because all our time was spent dealing with desegregation," Greenwood said. "That would be the real disaster, if we were returned to that period."
He refused to describe the school board's vote in its closed session on Thursday, other than to say that not all board members favored the appeal. Board members Rita Walters and Jackie Goldberg have in the past strongly advocated mandatory desegregation and have opposed the board majority's attempt to limit the case.