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26-Year Desegregation Case Ended

Times Education Writer

Ending an often bitter 26-year legal battle, a federal judge in Los Angeles on Monday dismissed the last remaining defendant in a class-action lawsuit to desegregate the Los Angeles Unified School District.

U.S. District Judge A. Wallace Tashima dropped the state Department of Education and Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig from the suit at the request of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, which said it could not afford to continue pressing the case.

The state had become the sole defendant in January, when Tashima dismissed the Los Angeles school district from the case.

Because the NAACP agreed to the dismissal, it cannot appeal the decision. Moreover, it is effectively barred from legally renewing its charges that the district caused the intentional segregation of black students from 1963, when the original desegregation suit was filed, to the present.

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But the district still faces allegations of unequal treatment of minority students in a suit brought by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and other public-interest law firms in 1986.

And the federal court action does not preclude the NAACP from suing the district for discriminating against ethnic minority students if it finds evidence of such discrimination in the future.

Some observers said they were doubtful that any civil rights organization could afford the monumental costs of litigating a major school desegregation lawsuit in the future.

“It would cost so many millions of dollars, beyond the capacity of any minority group in the country to pay . . . so we may have a situation where justice exists, but no one can afford to obtain it,” said Gary Orfield, a University of Chicago desegregation expert.

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