On October 4, 2000, African American students of Champaign County Unit School District #4 filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court of the Central District of Illinois against the School District. The lawsuit, based on complaints of racial segregation in schools, arose under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Title VI"), and other state and federal law. The plaintiff, represented by private counsel, sought to have the Court approve and order enforcement of a previously drafted consent decree.
This consent decree incorporated various memoranda and a Resolution Agreement made by the School District and the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights ("OCR"), resulting from several families initiating complaints with the OCR in May and July of 1996. The initial complaints with the OCR alleged system-wide discrimination in student assignment, intra-school segregation, and discrimination in tracking, discipline, and staff-hiring and assignment. On June 15, 1998, the School District entered into the Resolution agreement with OCR, resolving issues from the initial complaints and OCR investigations.
However, this lawsuit was initiated due to a dispute between the original families who initiated the complaints and their private counsel, and the association Of the People, who were actively aiding the families in their efforts. On July 28, 2000, Racial Justice Now (the successor association to Of The People) filed a school desegregation suit against the School District, prompting this lawsuit.
On January 29, 2002, the Court (Judge Joe Billy McDade) approved the Second Revised Consent Decree. The Consent Decree, expiring in the 2008-2009 school year, outlined increased seating capacity to remedy student assignment problems, a budget for educational equity reforms, improvement of hiring practices, and a Controlled Choice Plan to incentivize school improvement and increase diversity. On December 9, 2002, the OCR formally closed its monitoring of the case.
On February 19, 2009, the plaintiffs submitted a motion to the Court to modify the Consent Decree or to vacate it and initiate a trial. The plaintiffs requested an extension of the Consent Decree's student assignment portion past the original 2009 expiration, claiming that the School District had not yet added and sought funding for additional seats in majority-white north side schools. The parties entered a Joint Motion for Settlement Approval, granted by the Court on November 4, 2009, terminating the Consent Decree and specifying policies regarding student assignment as well as the creation of an Education Equity Excellence Committee, resolving the remaining issues in regards to student assignment discrimination.
On June 1, 2011, the Court ordered that the defendant pay $701,159.03 in attorney's fees to the plaintiffs. On July 1, 2011, the Board of Education filed an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (11-02485), and on July 14, 2011, the plaintiffs filed a cross appeal (11-02601). Both appeals concerned the appropriate amount of attorney's fees. On July 18, 2011, the appeals were consolidated and on April 24, 2012, the Court granted the parties' joint motion for an indicative ruling, allowing the case to be remanded and resulting in a total of $496,290.24.
On June 7, 2012, the Court entered an order approving a settlement agreement approving the fees and closing the case.Claire Lally - 01/27/2015