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Case Name United States of America v. Richardson Independent School District SD-TX-0003
Docket / Court 3:70-cv-4101-O ( N.D. Tex. )
State/Territory Texas
Case Type(s) School Desegregation
Attorney Organization U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Case Summary
This case was originally part of United States v. Texas Education Agency but was later separated and became an independent case. On 08/19/1970, United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division filed a complaint ... read more >
This case was originally part of United States v. Texas Education Agency but was later separated and became an independent case. On 08/19/1970, United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division filed a complaint against Richardson Independent School District, among other Texas school districts, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The U.S. sought an injunction prohibiting the defendant school districts from discriminating against Black students on the basis of race, and an order requiring the districts to adopt and implement a desegregation plan prior to the beginning of the 1970-71 school year.

Initially the Court (Judge Joe Ewing Estes) set the schedule for preliminary pretrial conference after the start of the 1970-1971 school year. The plaintiffs appealed the schedule and the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (Judges John M. Wisdom, James P. Coleman, and John M.B. Simpson) reversed the scheduling order, holding that the case against the school districts should be given top priority. The Circuit Court also noted that it would be appropriate to sever the suits against individual school districts. 431 F.2d 1313. Thereafter, the case against Richard Independent School District was severed from the main action and assigned to Judge William M. Taylor, Jr.

On September 10, 1970, the Court issued a desegregation order that addressed issues for which the parties had been unable to reach an agreement, including student assignment, faculty and staff matters, the implementation of a majority to minority transfer policy, school construction and site selection, intra-district and inter-district transfers, use of a bi-racial advisory committee, and the School District’s reporting requirements.

In May 1974, the plaintiffs moved for supplemental relief asking that the School District be ordered to desegregate the only all-black school in the district. The case went to trial in August 1974 and the District Court denied the motion. The plaintiffs appealed and the Circuit Court (Judges Griffin Bell, Robert A. Ainsworth, Jr., and Cooper C. Godbold) reversed the District Court holding. The Circuit Court explained that under Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1, one-race schools like the one at issue in this case were subject to strict scrutiny; accordingly, the Court held that the defendants could not show that the one-race composition of the school was not the result of present or past discrimination by the defendants. 512 F.2d 896. The defendants appealed, but the Supreme Court denied certiorari. 423 U.S. 837. On July 16, 1975, the District Court ordered the desegregation of Hamilton Park Elementary School for the 1975-1976 school year. During the following year, the Court entered orders to address various student assignment issues that arose.

Additionally, in August 1976 a Black schoolteacher employed by the defendant sought to intervene in the case, alleging that the defendant had wrongfully terminated her in violation of her due process and equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. The intervenor had struck a student in self-defense after the student had refused to leave her classroom, threatened her, and verbally abused her. Although the parent of the student did not complain about the physical contact, and although the teacher had maintained a perfect employment record during her 15 years of working for the defendant, the school board decided that the teacher’s actions were a violation of the school’s policy on corporal punishment and terminated her employment based solely on that incident. On December 28, 1979, the Court held that although the defendants had not violated the intervenor’s procedural due process, they had acted arbitrarily and capriciously in violation of her substantive due process rights. The Court also held that the defendants had violated the intervenor's equal protection rights by unequally enforcing the school’s policy against corporal punishment and intentionally discriminating against her on the basis of race. 483 F.Supp. 80. The defendants appealed but the Circuit Court affirmed the District Court decision in October 1980.

On February 3, 1984, the case was reassigned to Judge Buchmeyer (after Judge Taylor had transitioned to senior judge status in 1979). The defendants continued to file annual reports for several years without change. In 1997, the defendants filed a motion for approval of a proposed student assignment plan. The plan was intended to address overcrowding and administrative issues, and it provided for: maintaining the neighborhood school system at the elementary school level; using a flexible secondary feeder system that includes the reassignment of several feeder schools, choice and managed choice of junior high attendance in particular areas, and the use of centers of interest at junior highs which serve as feeders to under-diversified high schools; the opening of a freshman campus; and the redrawing of attendance zones. On June 10, 1997, the Court entered an order approving the plan and implementing the new attendance zones.

In March 2008 the case was randomly reassigned to Judge Rood C. O’Connor (after Judge Buchmeyer had transitioned to inactive status). In May 2011 the defendants moved for a declaration of unitary status. The Court scheduled a trial and issued an order for partial unitary status on August 17, 2011 stating that four areas of the school system ((i) transportation, (ii) student activities, (iii) facilities, and (iv) special education) were unitary and dismissing the 1970 Desegregation order as to those four areas. In January 2012 the defendants moved for summary judgement. The plaintiffs opposed the motion and alleged that the defendants had violated the desegregation order with respect to quality of education and discipline. The Court held an evidentiary hearing on the matter beginning on June 11, 2012.

On July 27, 2012, the Court issued an opinion granting in part and denying in part the defendants' motion for summary judgment. The Court found that the defendants had complied with the desegregation orders in good faith and achieved unitary status as to two areas: (i) student assignment to its high schools and junior high schools, and (ii) faculty and staff hiring and recruiting. The Court dismissed the desegregation order with respect to those areas. With respect to the plaintiff’s allegations, the Court found that the plaintiffs could not show that racial disparities in quality of education or discipline were attributable to prior de jure segregation and could not show that the disparities amounted to an independent constitutional violation; thus, the Court refused to impose any affirmative obligations on the defendants in those areas. Finally, the Court deferred with respect to two areas: (i) student assignment to elementary schools, and (ii) assignment of faculty and staff, finding that additional argument and evidence were needed.

After another evidentiary hearing beginning on April 24, 2013, the Court issued a declaration of unitary status on July 23, 2013. The Court found that with respect to the two remaining issues, the defendants had (1) complied the Desegregation Order in good faith for a reasonable period of time and (2) had eliminated the vestiges of prior de jure segregation to the extent practicable. The Court also found that the racial imbalance in the school district was the result of demographic factors and that the defendants did not have a legal obligation to achieve a particular racial balance. The case was dismissed the same day, and is closed.

Available Opinions
United States v. Texas Ed. Agency, 431 F.2d 1313 (5th Cir. 1970)
United States v. Texas Ed. Agency, 512 F.2d 896 (5th Cir. 1975)
United States v. Richardson Indep. Sch. Dist., 483 F. Supp. 80 (N.D. Tex. 1979), aff'd, 626 F.2d 171 (5th Cir. 1980)

Sara Stearns - 04/27/2019

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Elementary/Secondary School
Race discrimination
Disparate Treatment
Racial segregation
School/University Facilities
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Plaintiff Type
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action Title IV, Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000c et seq.
Defendant(s) Richardson Independent School District
Plaintiff Description United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division
Indexed Lawyer Organizations U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 1970 - 2013
Filed 08/19/1970
Case Closing Year 2013
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing SD-TX-0009 : United States of America v. The Texas Education Agency (N.D. Tex.)
Additional Resources
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Court Docket(s)
S.D. Tex.
SD-TX-0003-9001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D. Tex.
SD-TX-0003-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
U.S. Court of Appeals
Opinion (431 F.2d 1313)
SD-TX-0003-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
U.S. Court of Appeals
Opinion (512 F.2d 896)
SD-TX-0003-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
U.S. Supreme Court
Memorandum for the United States in Opposition
SD-TX-0003-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: Papers of Owen Fiss
N.D. Tex.
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law [ECF# 127]
SD-TX-0003-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Tex.
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law [ECF# 199]
SD-TX-0003-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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Judges Ainsworth, Robert Andrew Jr. (E.D. La., Fifth Circuit) show/hide docs
Bell, Griffin Boyette (Fifth Circuit) show/hide docs
Buchmeyer, Jerry (N.D. Tex.) show/hide docs
Coleman, James Plemon (Fifth Circuit) show/hide docs
Godbold, John Cooper (Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
O'Connor, Reed Charles (N.D. Tex.) show/hide docs
SD-TX-0003-0002 | SD-TX-0003-0003 | SD-TX-0003-9000
Simpson, John Milton Bryan (S.D. Fla., Eleventh Circuit, M.D. Fla., Fifth Circuit) show/hide docs
Wisdom, John Minor (Fifth Circuit) show/hide docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bhargava, Anurima (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Dann, Mark (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Gurwin, Steve (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Landsberg, Brian K. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Marshall, Franz (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Murphy, Nicholas U. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Rich, Joseph D. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Roper, Richard B. III (Texas) show/hide docs
Defendant's Lawyers Akin, Henry D (Texas) show/hide docs
Gonzalez, Jose L (Texas) show/hide docs
Luna, Earl (Texas) show/hide docs
Martin, Mia M (Texas) show/hide docs
Martin, Crawford (Texas) show/hide docs
Parrish, D Todd (Texas) show/hide docs
Ronquillo, Marcos G (Texas) show/hide docs
Soto, Ramona (Texas) show/hide docs
Other Lawyers Bork, Robert Heron (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Fichtner, Jay S (Texas) show/hide docs
Pottinger, J. Stanley (District of Columbia) show/hide docs

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